This past week Forest Minister Pat Bell has been pumping out press releases as fast as trees can fall, providing announcement after announcement of progress from the trade mission he and industry leaders have been on for the last week or so.
The latest missive from the Minister (by way of Opinion 250 and the Terrace Standard) details two Memorandums of Understanding that were signed between BC and Chinese officials, documents which will have Chinese interests look at some forest sector properties in BC.
It would appear that recent discussions between Mr. Bell and Chinese officials led to the memo signing of Monday, a development that will see a private Chinese company to examine the books of the Worthington mill in MacKenzie and Kitimat's Eurocan operation.
A bit of welcome news for the province, that may provide a glimmer of hope for Kitimat residents that all may not be lost yet when it comes to the over 500 jobs in the community.
Interestingly enough, and perhaps something that Prince Rupert City council may wish to inquire about is that Minister Bell made no mention of that other Northwest property up on the auction block. The little orphan Annie of industrial sites, that is the Watson Island pulp mill.
The Watson Island site was recently listed on the city website and as we outlined on the blog back on November 3rd, can be had for 13 million dollars give or take.
It of course was previously owned by Chinese interests known as Sun Wave, a group which never managed to bring the mill back to operational status and which as history has shown, were not particularly inclined to pay taxes on the property either.
That perhaps provides for a cautionary tale for the residents of Kitimat and MacKenzie, a suggestion not to uncork the champagne bottles just yet.
As Rupertites can attest to, there is no guarantee that MOU's, don't turn into IOU's when all is said and done.
Update: November 13, 215PM-- The Terrace Standard pours a bit of cold water on the tire kicking ways of would be Chinese investors, as they quote an un named West Fraser official as stating “I'm now able to confirm there is no MOU,”. The MOU in question orginally referenced the Worthington mill in MacKenzie as being of interest to Chinese investors, the Prince George based website Opinion 250 `had suggested that Eurocan was also up for a look over by the Chinese. (note original link at Terrace Standard we featured at 215PM was removed later on Friday)
Update 2: November 13, 830 PM-- The Terrace standard spins around 180 on their original debunking of the Chinese investor story, with an updated item posted at 3 pm which confirmed the opening of the books by West Fraser, Eurocan's owners, Forest Minister Pat Bell declined the opportunity to provide the name of the Chinese interests at this time.