The Neucel pulp mill in Port Alice has been sent to receivership. (Tyson Whitney)

Dormant Northern Vancouver Island pulp mill declares bankruptcy, owes $272 million

Port Alice’s main employer and tax payer has left the village on the hook for $1.8 million

The dormant pulp mill in Port Alice has officially been put into bankruptcy proceedings over unpaid taxes and other outstanding debts.

The mill is owned by Neucel Specialty Cellulose, which in turn is owned by Fulida Holdings, a large private Chinese textiles company. Neucel owes a total of $272 million to various creditors—including the largest portion of $235 million to Fulida Holdings. Of the remaining $37 million, Neucel owes $1.8 million to Port Alice—which could be closer to $2.2 million when this year’s taxes are billed—$21 million to Unifor Local 514, $13 million to the province, $50,377 in unpaid wages and $388,277 in unpaid BC Hydro bills.

Price Waterhouse Cooper is the appointed receiver, as determined by B.C.’s supreme court on April 14. PWC issued request for proposals on May 5 for fencing and security at the mill, in order to secure the premises while bankruptcy proceedings are underway.

READ MORE: Neucel Specialty Cellulose lays off remaining workers, no written notice given

READ MORE: Port Alice awaits word as few remaining pulp mill workers sent home

Unpaid tax bills to Port Alice have had a significant impact on the village. Neucel had made up 70 per cent of the town’s tax base. Property taxes could be seriously affected when the mill property is reassessed next year. The village has also had to make the difficult decision to keep the Doug Bondue Arena closed for two seasons now because of lost tax revenue.

Ultimately, receiving payment for taxes owed is the goal, but it’s early in the receivership process, so it’s impossible to say if that’s a likelihood, Port Alice Mayor Kevin Cameron said. And long term, the goal is to have a new tenant in the pulp mill’s location.

“It probably won’t go back to the pulp mill days of 400-plus employees, but if we can get something with 25 jobs, that matters to Port Alice. Even two jobs matter right now,” noted Cameron.

The mill was a major employer in the town with over 400 employees, and the workers have had to deal not only with unpaid wages and severance, but a lack of available work since the mill went into curtailment near the end of 2015. Many residents have since left the village.

“It [Neucel] was the economic driver for Port Alice,” Cameron stated. “And then boom, they shut down and people were hanging around waiting to go back to work for about two years. Eventually they realized they’d have to go somewhere else.”

The mill has essentially been shuttered for a little over five years when Neucel laid off hundreds of workers, supposedly for a renovation which never began. Last year in February, the remaining employees were abruptly told to leave in the middle of the day by a member of Fulida who randomly showed up in the village.

The shuttered mill left a dangerous chemical mess behind which the province has had to hire contractors to deal with.

Last year Arterran Renewables explored the idea of leasing the mill from Neucel, but never took possession. Due to the existing debts and environmental hazards, Arterran backed out. Arterran’s Director of Business Development, David Tiessen said the company is still interested in the site, but are currently looking at a site in Campbell River.

“Port Alice is no stranger to hardship,” added Cameron. “We lost our major tax base, then we lost our bank—they had to close because nothing was happening. Then we had the eight month forestry strike and now we’ve got a virus pandemic. And yet, there’s no place I’d rather live than Port Alice. It’s just a great community.”


@ZoeDucklow
zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

municipal politicsProperty taxes

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Drivesmart column: Are slow drivers breaking the law?

When I am behind a driver that is going slower it bothers me.

Cowichan’s 49ers just miss fourth Grover Cup

Since the 49ers were founded, the team had never lost a Tony Grover Cup final

Mary Lowther column: Contemplating the compost heap

David made me a three-bin compost system

Sarah Simpson Column: Mistakes will happen but kindness prevails

You know those jerks who always follow the trail directions wrong? I… Continue reading

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Most Read