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)

Bankruptcy underway for Port Alice pulp mill buried in $272 million debt

Mayor sees bright future despite Neucel leaving the village on the hook for $1.8 million

The dormant pulp mill in Port Alice is officially in 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.

RELATED: Port Alice awaits word as few remaining pulp mill workers sent home

RELATED: Pulp mill fails to pay taxes, Port Alice closes arena

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.

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 more than 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 five years since Neucel laid off hundreds of workers, supposedly for a renovation which never began. Last year in February, the handful of 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.

RELATED: Experimental wood pellet firm eyes large-scale Vancouver Island production

“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.”

For more news from the Island and beyond delivered directly to your email inbox, click here.


@ZoeDucklow
zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

municipal politicsProperty taxes

Just Posted

Willow, a kitten belonging to a Victoria family, was rescued by firefighters on Thursday after she got stuck in a basement drain pipe. (City of Victoria/Twitter)
Victoria kitten stuck in basement drain pipe rescued by firefighters

Willow the cat on the mend, owner feeling ‘enormous gratitude’

Terry Fong embraces his best friend Princeton at Incinerator Rock, which became the travelling companions’ favourite spot during five years of exploring. (Cam Shaw photo)
Tofino played key role in inspirational dog’s journey

Terry Fong explains his recently published book, ‘Princeton - A Love Story’

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests: Greater Victoria teacher union

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Myla Bui holds up one of the paper cranes she made which have raised $31,031 for the Help Fill A Dream Foundation. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Cut out for this: sister of Leila Bui helps sick kids with 1,001 cranes each

Young Saanich philanthropist raises $31,031 for sick kids, folds thousands of paper cranes

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: Island man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

A fire sparked at an encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue early Thursday morning. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Residents of Pat Bay Highway encampment to be relocated after early morning fire, site secured for clean up

Eviction notice issued in 2020, not enforced to allow BC Housing to connect with campers

Victoria’s Canoe Brewpub will soon be the eighth Craft Beer Market location in Canada. (Google Maps)
Craft Beer Market buys Victoria’s Canoe Brewpub

Craft Beer Market operates nine locations across Canada

The Neighbourhood Market at Saanich Baptist Church is one of 10 that provide fresh produce to people in need across Greater Victoria. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Daily free food markets offer fresh produce to Greater Victorians in need

Ten Neighbourhood Markets operate across the region

AnimalKind, the BC SPCA’s animal welfare accreditation and referral program, has granted accreditation to Courtenay’s K9 Kind Dog Training & Behaviour Consulting, owned and operated by Carrie Lumsden. Photo supplied
Comox Valley dog trainer joins select club

Carrie Lumsden receives special BC SPCA accreditation

Victoria artist Noah Layne is conducting online workshops on portrait drawing as part of the Metchosin ArtPod’s About Face portrait show. (Photo courtesy of Noah Layne)
Metchosin Art Pod doing an about-face

Renowned artist Noah Layne hosting online classes in portrait drawing

A still from surveillance footage showing a confrontation in the entranceway at Dolly’s Gym on Nicol Street on Friday morning. (Image submitted)
Troublemaker in Nanaimo fails at fraud attempt, slams door on business owner’s foot

VIDEO: Suspect causes pain and damage in incident downtown Friday morning

Most Read