Fisheries Minister Steve Crocker
BOTWOOD -Minister of Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods Steve Crocker remains cautiously optimistic about a proposed sawmill and biofuel plant in Botwood, but says it is not a done deal yet.
“We’re getting there, but there is still some work to do,” Crocker told TC Media Wednesday morning at the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture’s annual general meeting at the Hotel Gander.
The Town of Botwood has an agreement negotiated this past June for land and building leases with the fledgling company. The proposed sawmill would be capable of producing 20 million board feet; the fibre from the milling process would then be used to produce fuel — diesel by-product said to be destined for European markets.
“It’s big for Botwood,” said Exploits Regional Chamber of Commerce chairman Lou Alteen. “We’re whole heartedly behind it…, as a layperson, it seems like a no brainer. They don’t want any government money, apparently everything is presold.”
When directly questioned however, Crocker is cautious in responding.
“We have to keep in mind of existing operators so we’ve got to make sure we find the proper fibre allotments,” said Crocker. “There are so many factors surrounding the fibre supply, and you’re not looking at a fibre supply for one year or two years.
“In many cases you’re looking at identifying a fibre supply for 20 years, 40 years. So it sounds like ‘here are some trees’, but we’ve got to find this supply for the future and again I can’t emphasize this enough, keeping in mind our existing industry.”
Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Barry Manuel, who has been pushing hard to see the project come to fruition, noted at Tuesday’s regular council meeting that the timber allocation decision is a “milestone.”
“It was very encouraging news yesterday when we heard from (Minister Crocker) that there will be a timber allocation offered to (Newgreen Technologies),” he continued.
“It looks like they can move to the next step now and get their financing in place and they can answer any questions the government may have around the business component of this project,” said Manuel.
The potential is great, the mayor noted in regards to what he terms a “generational project.”
“The way the biofuels technology is constantly evolving and the opportunities in the future for expansion and new products to produce where there’s a world market for, it’s really good to see that milestone reached yesterday,” Manuel said. “With the province committing a basket of timber for this company to be viable (we) look forward to a lot of good news in the future on that project.”