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Market recovery spurs paper mill investments, Powell River site restarts paper machine

A recovery in global paper ­markets has spurred Paper Excellence to bring back online one of the paper machines at its Catalyst paper mill in Powell River, meaning a return to work for 200 people.
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Paper Excellence's Crofton mill had been making inroads with new food packaging paper while ­maintaining its traditional ­printing and writing-grade ­products.

A recovery in global paper ­markets has spurred Paper Excellence to bring back online one of the paper machines at its Catalyst paper mill in Powell River, meaning a return to work for 200 people.

The company plans to restart the machine around May 1.

The machine was shut down in the spring of last year after a malware attack affected the company’s IT systems, and the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on both paper demand and paper production.

“This is long awaited good news for Powell River,” said Paper Excellence vice-president Patrick Corriveau.

“We deeply appreciate the patience shown by our employees. We know the extended curtailment had a ­significant impact on them, their families, our business partners, and the greater community.”

The company hopes to restart a second machine at the mill later in the year.

Strong paper markets have already resulted in the company bringing back online its third machine and 58 workers at its Crofton operation.

The Crofton mill had been making inroads with new food packaging paper while ­maintaining its traditional ­printing and writing-grade ­products.

Crofton’s third machine was curtailed in the spring of last year due to the combined impact of an external malware attack, a fibre shortage, the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced global paper demand.

That mill employs about 560 people.

The company is spending $13 million to upgrade and streamline production at its Port Alberni paper mill.

The project, which should be completed this year, will improve efficiency and upgrade both of the mill’s paper machines to make food-grade paper — used by restaurants and food preparation companies.