Neucel extends mill closure

The Port Alice mill will now be closed longer than initially announced

Port Alice has been dealt another blow.

The Neucel Specialty Cellulose mill in Port Alice will be closed longer than the six months previously announced. The closure, which began Feb. 21, put about 400 people out of work.

“There has been little or no upwards movement in the global dissolving pulp market and forecasts indicated that the weak market price for dissolving pulp will continue through 2015 and into 2016,” said Chief Executive Officer Wanli Zhao in a letter to employees dated May 19.

“The shareholders have evaluated this situation, as well as the currently reliability of the mill, and have come to the decision that, in the interest of securing the long-term viability of the Mill, the production curtailment will be extended into 2016,” Zhao said.

During the curtailment, the shareholders have approved the development of a number of projects to address mechanical and operational issues that contribute to chronic poor reliability.

“It’s bad news for all the people who were planning on going back to work in six months,” said Village of Port Alice Mayor Jan Allen, adding the announcement did not come as a complete surprise.

In the interim, Village administration is “working hard at bringing courses here through North Island College,” Allen said.

For instance, the community will be the host for a Building Service Worker Training course being offered July 14 to July 21.