RODDICKTON-BIDE ARM, NL – Roddickton-Bide Arm town council and the Northern Peninsula Loggers Association are seeking answers regarding a proposed pellet plant on the Northern Peninsula.
In May 2017, The Telegram reported the provincial government had reached a tentative agreement with Active Energy Group (AEG) on a 20-year forestry lease covering almost all of the Northern Peninsula.
The plan was for AEG to work with affiliated company Advanced Biomass Solutions to manufacture wood pellets as part of their “CoalSwitch” product.
A pellet plant would be opened on the Northern Peninsula, creating 56 jobs. Additional employment would come at a local port, bringing the total of new jobs to about 70.
The company would also contract existing logging firms on the Northern Peninsula to conduct forestry activities.
In September 2017, Richard Spinks, CEO of AEG, told the Northern Pen he believed the process was entirely in the provincial government’s hands.
“We think we’re now at the stage where we’ve done everything we need to do,” Spinks is quoted in the Sept. 27, 2017 article. “And then it would be up to the government to decide.”
However, no decision has been announced.
Roddickton-Bide Arm town council and the Northern Peninsula Loggers Association are looking for answers.
They sent a joint letter to the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources two weeks ago, wondering where things were in the process.
The Town of Roddickton-Bide Arm had been optimistic that a pre-existing pellet plant in the town would be part of AEG’s operations, while local logging firms were hoping they would be contracted by the company for the enterprise’s forestry activities.
According to Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald, council received an emailed response from the government acknowledging the letter had been received.
No other information was provided.
Both Fitzgerald and Northern Peninsula Loggers Association president Trevor Filliers expressed frustration with the lack of answers.
Fitzgerald said people from Roddickton-Bide Arm, as well as surrounding communities such as Englee and Main Brook, have been contacting the council looking for answers as well.
According to her, people are looking for employment in the industry so that they won’t have to leave the area to find work elsewhere.
She stressed the forest’s importance in revitalizing the local economy.
“It wasn’t that long ago that the Harris Centre came out with its study that said by 2036, almost 41 per cent of the population on the tip of the Northern Peninsula will no longer be there, and unless there’s some type of economic growth and development, and some type of driver to take care of the people that are here, to keep our kids from leaving and to bring the people who are away back who wants to come home, then that’s right – that will happen,” said Fitzgerald.
“But for us, the forestry, if we can revitalize that, that could mean that’s not going to be forecasted – that we won’t be gone in 20 years, we’ll still be here and vibrant.”
Meanwhile, since the Roddickton-Bide Arm sawmill closed in 2012, the logging industry is mostly relying on selling firewood.
Fillier said it’s seasonal work – not year-round.
It’s increasingly difficult for them to afford and repair equipment without more work in the industry, he said.
“How can you invest, how can you do work on your gear, if you only got seasonal work?” Fillier asked. “Doing repairs costs a lot of money.
“We can’t survive. Firewood is not cutting it.”
The Northern Pen contacted the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources regarding the status of AEG’s proposal last week.
The department said it is working with AEG on a potential forest management agreement proposal “that will support and sustain the company’s business plan.”
“The department recognizes forest operators that are currently dependent on the forests of the Great Northern Peninsula and will ensure timber allocations are maintained according to departmental policy or through the promotion of positive business-to-business arrangements with Active Energy,” the department’s statement read.
“Government is committed to the sustainable utilization of the forest resources on the Northern Peninsula, which will contribute to the local and provincial economy.”