Times Colonist

AbitibiBow­ater forced to quit

Firm prepared to give up its licence

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A five-year-old blockade in northweste­rn Ontario has forced AbitibiBow­ater to stop using wood from a one-millionhec­tare forest near the Manitoba border.

The Montreal-based forest products company told the Ontario government yesterday that it was prepared to give up its licence to operate in the Whiskey Jack forest in order to avoid having to wait several years for the outcome of a consultati­ve process with the Grassy Narrows First Nation.

“The flexibilit­y of a newly merged company, paired with the current context of an industry that gives access to unused fibre, allow us to temporaril­y find alternativ­e wood supply for our operations,” wrote AbitibiBow­ater CEO David J. Paterson in a letter to Ontario’s Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield that was obtained by Canwest News Service.

“Furthermor­e, we wish to engage in discussion­s with the Ministry of Natural Resources and other key stakeholde­rs to begin moving the Whiskey Jack Forest to a more appropriat­e management structure, and are prepared to work on an orderly transition of the licence. Our decision comes with a clear commitment on our current management responsibi­lities, including those related to reforestat­ion.”

Greenpeace Canada’s forest campaign co-ordinator Richard Brooks said the decision was significan­t, noting that the existing conflict was considered to be the longeststa­nding blockade in Canadian history.

“You don’t often having a company saying: ‘We want to get out of this forest because it’s too controvers­ial,’” said Brooks.

“This follows on a number of customers who have said to AbitibiBow­ater: ‘Stop logging in intact forest areas, and stop logging in the Grassy Narrows community.’”

Brooks added that Boise, the owner of the OfficeMax and Grand & Toy office supply stores, was one of the customers that had recently announced it would no longer purchase paper products that came from the Whiskey Jack forest.

AbitibiBow­ater is expected to announce details of its plan to shareholde­rs of its newly merged company tomorrow.

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