Sunday, December 18, 2005

Awaiting glad tidings from Beijing

The saga of the Watson Island pulp mill will now play out in the offices of the Chinese People’s Government, as the local consultants on the sale to China Paper Group sign off on their end of the documentation.

The decision is in the hands of the company now, is the hopeful word from those involved locally, in over a year of file clearing regarding all the outstanding issues of the old Skeena Cel site.

China Paper’s subsidiary Sun Wave kicked the tires in February and purchased the assets of the old/new Skeena and put an offer on the table in May for the land on Watson Island. Since then it’s been meeting after meeting as the folks at Sun Wave have conducted their due diligence on the feasibility of running the mill locally as opposed to the initial fears of carting off every salvageable piece of equipment off to China.

The long winding road of Skeena Cel has been in the forefront of Podunk history for years and seen more than one extension in its day, so it’s probably not surprising to see that yet another bit of time will pass before some kind of definitive word on the plan will come down.

What’s at stake for China Paper is the realization that it will probably take an investment of more than 100 million dollars to rejuvenate the mothballed mill and get it back in operating order. That in an economic climate that has seen numerous pulp mills shut down across the country.

At stake for the Northwest is the viability of its forest sector and even more importantly, the rebuilding of an employment and tax base for a rather devastated part of the province.

Mayor Herb Pond had been hoping for a Christmas present for Podunk with an announcement from China Paper about its intentions on the mill, but perhaps we’ll just all have to wait for Chinese New Year and a shot a good fortune for 2006. The Year of the Dog enters on January 29th, bringing with it a year that promises to root for the underdog, of which there surely can be no bigger underdog than the long troubled course of Skeena Cel. On the upside one of the traits of a Dog year is that it makes for an excellent business person.

Hopefully it’s a year that also brings an end to the uncertainty that hangs over Watson Island and the Northwest.

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