The Neucel pulp mill in Port Alice has been sent to receivership. (Tyson Whitney)

The Neucel pulp mill in Port Alice has been sent to receivership. (Tyson Whitney)

Mayor sees bright future for Port Alice despite dormant pulp mill owing $272 million

Port Alice’s main employer and tax payer has left the village on the hook for $1.8 million

The dormant pulp mill in Port Alice has officially been put into bankruptcy proceedings over unpaid taxes and other outstanding debts.

The mill is owned by Neucel Specialty Cellulose, which in turn is owned by Fulida Holdings, a large private Chinese textiles company. Neucel owes a total of $272 million to various creditors—including the largest portion of $235 million to Fulida Holdings. Of the remaining $37 million, Neucel owes $1.8 million to Port Alice—which could be closer to $2.2 million when this year’s taxes are billed—$21 million to Unifor Local 514, $13 million to the province, $50,377 in unpaid wages and $388,277 in unpaid BC Hydro bills.

Price Waterhouse Cooper is the appointed receiver, as determined by B.C.’s supreme court on April 14. PWC issued request for proposals on May 5 for fencing and security at the mill, in order to secure the premises while bankruptcy proceedings are underway.

READ MORE: Neucel Specialty Cellulose lays off remaining workers, no written notice given

READ MORE: Port Alice awaits word as few remaining pulp mill workers sent home

Unpaid tax bills to Port Alice have had a significant impact on the village. Neucel had made up 70 per cent of the town’s tax base. Property taxes could be seriously affected when the mill property is reassessed next year. The village has also had to make the difficult decision to keep the Doug Bondue Arena closed for two seasons now because of lost tax revenue.

Ultimately, receiving payment for taxes owed is the goal, but it’s early in the receivership process, so it’s impossible to say if that’s a likelihood, Port Alice Mayor Kevin Cameron said. And long term, the goal is to have a new tenant in the pulp mill’s location.

“It probably won’t go back to the pulp mill days of 400-plus employees, but if we can get something with 25 jobs, that matters to Port Alice. Even two jobs matter right now,” noted Cameron.

The mill was a major employer in the town with over 400 employees, and the workers have had to deal not only with unpaid wages and severance, but a lack of available work since the mill went into curtailment near the end of 2015. Many residents have since left the village.

“It [Neucel] was the economic driver for Port Alice,” Cameron stated. “And then boom, they shut down and people were hanging around waiting to go back to work for about two years. Eventually they realized they’d have to go somewhere else.”

The mill has essentially been shuttered for a little over five years when Neucel laid off hundreds of workers, supposedly for a renovation which never began. Last year in February, the remaining employees were abruptly told to leave in the middle of the day by a member of Fulida who randomly showed up in the village.

The shuttered mill left a dangerous chemical mess behind which the province has had to hire contractors to deal with.

Last year Arterran Renewables explored the idea of leasing the mill from Neucel, but never took possession. Due to the existing debts and environmental hazards, Arterran backed out. Arterran’s Director of Business Development, David Tiessen said the company is still interested in the site, but are currently looking at a site in Campbell River.

“Port Alice is no stranger to hardship,” added Cameron. “We lost our major tax base, then we lost our bank—they had to close because nothing was happening. Then we had the eight month forestry strike and now we’ve got a virus pandemic. And yet, there’s no place I’d rather live than Port Alice. It’s just a great community.”


@ZoeDucklow
zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

municipal politicsProperty taxes

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An officer fills up back of a police car with toys. (Submitted photo)
Port Hardy RCMP give back to local community members in need

“We leave,” says Voller “but a piece of our hearts stays in each community we served in.”

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Hecht Beach cabin in ashes. (Submitted)
Beloved secret cabin lost to fire on the North Island’s west coast

The trappers cabin was shared with locals, but kept mostly secret

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at a fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. Mowi Canada has applied to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision by Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to phase out salmon farming in the Discovery Islands by June, 2022. (Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward photo)
Major B.C. salmon farms seek court intervention in Discovery Islands ban

Fisheries minister is phasing out operations in the area by June 2022

Michelle Lau with donations that have already been contributed for families kept away from home due to the Town Park Apartments fire. (Zoe Ducklow Photo)
Fundraiser started for tenants left hanging after apartment fire

Tenants not allowed back in to get personal items, so in need of clothes, food, gift cards

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Members of the BC RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) is on route to Drummond Park opposite of Fulford Habour on Saltspring Island after the discovery of a suspicious cylindrical-shaped device. (Google/Screencap)
Bomb disposal unit en route to Salt Spring Island after suspicious device found in park

Police say a resident discovered the device Wednesday morning in Drummond Park opposite BC Ferries terminal

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New Duncan street signs will be in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional names in First Nations language

Most Read