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Bear Island Newsprint Mill to Indefinitely Close

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Bear Island newsprint mill, Ashland, Va., USA, is being indefinitely closed, affecting 165 employees, its parent company, Connecticut, USA-based White Birch Paper Co., announced this past week. White Birch said that it will supply Bear Island customers from its three other paper mills, all located in the Quebec Province of Canada.

The Bear Island mill, which opened in 1979, produces some 240,000 metric tpy of newsprint. The mill underwent an expansion in 1994 that added a recycling plant to its pulping operations.

The company said the 165 employees at its Bear Island mill have been notified of the pending closure. The final date of operations, it added, will be announced shortly. Employees will be given severance payments and job placement services, a company spokesman noted.

White Birch blamed the closure on "difficult market pricing, challenging cost fundamentals, and declining demand."

"It is truly unfortunate to have to make this difficult decision, and we will be forever grateful to the employees at Bear Island for their tireless efforts and service," said Christopher Brant, the company’s president and COO.

Bear Island was the first mill in the U.S. to use a thermomechanical grinding and steam pressure technique to produce pulp. The thermomechanical pulping (TMP) process reduces air and water pollution and eliminates strong odors associated with traditional chemical pulp and paper mills, White Birch notes on its website. The mill’s recycled pulp mill, which was implemented in 1994, runs continuously, converting old newspapers and magazines into high-grade recycled pulp.

White Birch said it will explore "alternative industrial options" for the site. The company did not indicate whether it plans to sell the plant, which sits on a 250-acre property.

The closure comes about five years after White Birch was acquired out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by an investment group that included members of the Brant family, who manage the company, and affiliates of Black Diamond Capital Management LLC. 


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