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

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

Cowichan Valley writer Jennifer Manuel will headlining YakFest on March 1. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Cowichan Valley writer to headline next YakFest on March 1

YakFest is a B.C.-based monthly women’s event held online via Zoom

The North Island College campus in Port Alberni is located on Roger Street. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
North Island College plans tourism networking event

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on Vancouver Island’s tourism industry

Members of Alberni Valley Rescue Squad were at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020 to practice helicopter hover exit training with Ascent Helicopters out of Parksville. When executing a search in difficult terrain, it isn’t always possible to land a helicopter, so volunteer searchers must be certified in hover exits. (BILL MCLEOD/ Special to the AV News)
Alberni Valley Rescue Society receives much-needed $40K gaming grant

Bamfield volunteer fire department also funded

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

The current exhibit at the Rollin Art Centre features paintings from the Community Arts Council’s permanent collection. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
ARTS AROUND: Last chance to join Alberni Valley artist guide

The guide will include local artists and a map

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

Most Read