The former Abitibi Bowater mill in Grand Falls-Windsor will be demolished.
Health Minister Susan Sullivan, the MHA for Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans, confirmed it Thursday afternoon, shortly after the provincial budget was tabled.
The news comes almost five years to the day of the mill’s shutdown.
“At this point, we’re anticipating that the tender will be released fairly soon, and we have already been working with several companies,” Sullivan said.
“We’ve been five years now, and we’ve seen no use for the mill whatsoever. We’ve had a number of people tour, take a look at it, and invariably they’ve come away and not shown any interest in the mill infrastructure at all.”
Sullivan didn’t provide any details on how much the demolition would cost or when it would be completed.
In late 2012, the mill property made national news when the Supreme Court of Canada, going against the so-called “polluter pays” principle, sided with AbitibiBowater by ruling the province was responsible for the multimillion-dollar remediation of the facility.
Last month, Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Al Hawkins said it was time to get rid of the dilapidated mill, calling it an eyesore.
Deputy Mayor Barry Manuel said the town is pleased the government is finally taking the first steps to remediate the property.
“We’re very happy this is going to happen. There’s no practical uses left for the mill. That’s been determined, so take it down. Let’s close this chapter and try to move on,” he said.
Manuel said while the town can’t predict what the property will be used for, since it is owned by the provincial government, he hopes to see it used to the benefit of Grand Fall-Windsor.
“It’s right on the river down there. It’s prime property, and there’s definitely benefit that can come from that that we can use in the future,” he said.
While people in Grand Falls-Windsor have anticipated news of the mill’s demolition for a few years, the big question is what will become of the unused fibre resources in the region.
Sullivan said the demolition is unrelated to the expressions of interest for fibre the province has been examining for the past few months.
“The expressions of interest are narrowed down and we’re looking at one particular group now, and as I understand it, we’re still waiting for them to provide us with some information,” she said.
“When they get their final proposal in, then we’ll get to analyze it in full detail and make a decision. For us, it’s about sustainability and it’s about being able to provide optimal employment for the region.”
In an emailed statement Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation and Works said engineering consultants looked at the mill last summer and found no risk of collapse. The consultants, who work for engineering firm EXP, will provide formal recommendations on how the province should proceed with demolition.
“It is likely that some, if not all, of the structure on the property will be demolished if no further purposes are found,” the email states.
“How exactly that will occur and what materials can be salvaged is part of the ongoing work.”