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Silence precedes third Campbell River mill deadline

The Elk Falls mill is shown in better times. It’s been announced the property has been purchased by an Edmonton developer but the closing date keeps getting pushed up. - Mirror file photo
The Elk Falls mill is shown in better times. It’s been announced the property has been purchased by an Edmonton developer but the closing date keeps getting pushed up.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

With just hours to go before the third Catalyst Paper Elk Falls Mill site sale deadline, both the seller, Catalyst Paper, and the buyer, Alberta developer Harold Jahn, are observing a stony silence.

This is nothing new for Catalyst Paper which has not answered a Mirror phone call since mid-September. On Oct. 4 Jahn said his $8.6 million deal to buy the abandoned Catalyst Mill site would close today, Oct. 19, and he would be on site next week doing business.

Two earlier sale closure dates, Sept. 5 and 19, were missed since the deal was announced in August. At first Catalyst Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Responsibility Lyn Brown said the Sept. 5 date “was very aggressive, more optimistic than time allowed to complete site preparation work. This should in no way suggest the sale process won’t be completed,” she said at the time. That was the last time she responded to a Mirror inquiry.

Jahn was in Campbell River earlier this month and had a brief meet and greet with Mayor Walter Jakeway who came away with very little to go on. “I asked him if he owned the land and he said ‘no’ he doesn’t. It’s a very strange deal. It would be nice to know what’s going on,” Jakeway said at the time.

Jahn has claimed to be meeting with existing tenants and to be working with “20 or 30 prospective new tenants.” But, he said confidentiality agreements prohibited him from elaborating. In August Jahn said he would bring some of his existing companies to the new industrial park including a developer of algae based solar cells, a lithium battery manufacturing facility, an ocean wave energy equipment fabricator and an electric vehicle assembly plant.

The Edmonton-based developer has also said his company, Pacifica Deep Sea Terminals, would accept “all environmental liability” for the 400-acre site.

Catalyst has not posted a single word on its website about the sale since Aug. 16 when CEO Kevin J. Clarke said: “We are very pleased to have attracted an experienced developer with the capacity and an industrial concept that will fully utilize the site’s infrastructure and bring new business and jobs to the region.”

Production activity at the site was indefinitely curtailed in 2009 and halted permanently in 2010.

Since then, equipment has been decommissioned and demolition work has been completed to prepare the site for sale and redevelopment to other industrial uses. Ever since the sale was announced Catalyst crews have been hard at work removing anything of value.

The Elk Falls mill began operation in 1952, and at its peak, produced 784,000 tonnes of pulp, paper and kraft paper annually.

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