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A new partnership to determine future of Fort Frances mill
ONTARIO (From news reports) -- Rainy River First Nations members will be working to redevelop the idle pulp and paper mill in Fort Frances, through a new partnership with Riversedge Developments.

The two parties have announced the creation of the Aazhogan Renewal Partnership. Members of the initiative will be working with Fort Frances' municipal staff to determine the best use for the former mill properties.

"Aazhogan Renewal represents another significant step forward for our First Nation in achieving a sustainable future for our members by taking on a leadership role for economic renewal across the Rainy River District," said Sonny McGinnis, CEO for Rainy River First Nations Economic Development.

Rainy River First Nations, otherwise known as Manitou Rapids, is one of seven original First Nation communities along the Rainy River, and they own several businesses and ownership interests in the Fort Frances area.

"This goal is forever balanced with our stewardship responsibilities for the preservation of lands and resources. We look forward to working with Riversedge Developments, and in collaboration with the Fort Frances community, to revitalize the former mill properties."

The mill hasn't been in operation since 2014. Riversedge Developments purchased the former mill property in July, 2019. Part of the deal between Resolute and Riversedge included provisions for Resolute to keep the mill's wood licence for the Crossroute forest.

According to their web site, Riversedge Developments is a restorative development company specializing in the integrated revitalization of industrial properties, and they offer a single point of contact for communities and corporations looking for progressive, long-term solutions.

"This partnership represents a tremendous opportunity for the entire region," added Mitch LePage, Asset Manager at Riversedge Developments.

"We understand these are long-term projects that include stringent environmental remediation requirements, asset repositioning, decommissioning assessments and community engagement processes. Knowing what you have, who you can work with,and what you can collectively accomplish are simple steps towards building a project that can best leverage the strengths of the region while realizing new potential and value for the community."

In August of 2019, Mayor June Call said Resolute had purposely blocked the reopening of the idle mill in 2014 and 2018, so wood from the Crossroute forest can be used for Resolute's mills in Thunder Bay and Atikokan. A reopening of the mill could have led to over 250 local jobs.

Resolute Forest Products had spent an estimated $30 million over four years to help maintain the property, but many areas of the property were in disrepair, and some buildings had been abandoned for over 20 years. In 2017, the province forgave a $20 million debt owed by Resolute, related to a biomass boiler.

In January of 2020, Fort Frances received $65,000 in funding from Ontario for a land use and economic feasibility study for the mill's Shevlin wood yard and the former nursing station, to create a gateway to the Rainy Lake Market square.

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