Paper Excellence closes Interior pulp mill to invest on coast

Paper Excellence is expected to invest heavily in its Island and Sunshine Coast facilities after closing the door permanently on its pulp mill in Mackenzie in the province’s northern Interior.

The company announced the permanent closure this past week due to the mill’s small capacity, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its markets and a local of local pulp fibre.

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The company said the northern mill could not be globally competitive. Paper Excellence claims that, where possible, Mackenzie employees have been relocated to other facilities in Canada.

Last month, citing a recovery in global paper markets, Paper Excellence announced it would 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 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.

The company said it plans to make a $13-million capital investment in the Port Alberni paper mill to upgrade and streamline production, and diversify into higher-value markets.

Earlier this year, strong paper markets 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.

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