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

Banks need to help people out with credit card interest

Reduce credit card interest rates and reduce them drastically

Underground utility work completed on Chemainus Road Corridor Project

Tendering process to determine a contractor to begin the second phase in mid-June

Void of summer events going to be felt in Chemainus

CBIA cancels Classics Car Show and Canada Day celebrations

Paid sick leave a must going forward

The chickens are coming home to roost, so to speak, on this issue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cowichan RCMP remind public to leave dogs chilling at home on hot days

Dogsafe has designed a Dog in a Hot Car Responder Checklist

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

Most Read