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Forestry minister says province still communicating with company on pellet plant

A map showing the location of Roddickton and Hawke's Bay.
A map showing the location of Roddickton and Hawke's Bay, where a sawmill and pellet plant would potentially be located. - Contributed

Permits could be revoked if conditions not met; Roddickton-Bide Arm mayor says conditions should have been "tighter"

GREAT NORTHERN PENINSULA, N.L. – The Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources still believes a pellet plant operation could still go ahead on the Great Northern Peninsula.
But there’s been little development since forestry permits were issued in November and it’s raising some concerns.
Roddickton-Bide Arm mayor Sheila Fitzgerald told The Northern Pen she’s “cautiously optimistic” but feels conditions should have been “tighter” to ensure opportunities for forestry activity in the near future.
In November 2018, Timberlands International, a subsidiary of AEG, was awarded two forestry permits for five years for districts 17 and 18. This included a total annual allowable cut of 100,000 cubic metres across both forestry areas, totalling 500,000 cubic metres over five years.
The company would then use the small diameter wood to produce wood pellets while partnering with a sawmill that would cut the large-diameter wood for lumber.
The pellet plant was slated for construction in the town of Hawke’s Bay at a cost $19.7 million.
However, no partner has been found to cut the lumber and there has been no update on the construction of the pellet plant since the deal was announced.
Conditions of AEG’s forestry permits stipulate 40 per cent of the timber must be harvested in the first 30 months and the company must show they have the capacity.
If the company doesn’t meet that requirement, the permits can be revoked. Seven months have since passed since the permits were issued.
Gerry Byrne, Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources, said, at that point, if someone else comes forward with a project to harvest timber in districts 17 and 18, the permits could hypothetically be issued to them instead. However, Fitzgerald is concerned that that would be allowing too much time to pass.
Her town of Roddickton-Bide Arm had stood to benefit from the wood pellet operation.
While the pellet plant would be located on the other side of the Great Northern Peninsula, the town of Roddickton-Bide Arm was hopeful a sawmill would be operational once again in its community.
Fitzgerald stresses forestry has been the “pillar” of Roddickton-Bide Arm and, without little forestry activity over the past seven years, she’s seeing an increasing number of families leave the community.
She doesn’t want to have to wait at least another 23 months, if AEG doesn’t meet the conditions of the permit, given the desperation of the town’s situation.
“There are families that are moving away, and it seems like, in the past year, it’s happening a little bit faster,” she told The Northern Pen.
They need work sooner rather than later, according to Fitzgerald.
She believes the permit conditions should have been “tighter” to prevent the possibility of a longer period of harvesting inactivity.
“I think it would have been better if the conditions had been a little bit tighter – to say you have to have a certain amount (harvested) within, say, 12 months,” she said.
Meanwhile, Byrne stressed the Northern Peninsula Loggers Association supported the conditions of the permits. He also confirmed to The Northern Pen that the provincial government is still in contact with AEG officials.
“If there are things we can do to assist them in the process of developing the pellet plant and developing the sawmill, we are anxious to do so,” he said.
He added the province has been frequently reminding the company of the conditions of the permit to harvest 40 per cent within 30 months.
Furthermore, Byrne estimates they’ll know within two months of the permit deadline whether AEG can meet the conditions, as he doesn’t believe they can harvest 40 per cent of the timber within two months.

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