The Bear Island newsprint manufacturing mill in northern Hanover County is being closed, affecting 165 employees, its parent company announced Wednesday. White Birch Paper Co., a Connecticut-based company that owns the plant, said it plans to idle paper-making operations at the local mill indefinitely. The Bear Island mill produces about 240,000 metric tons of newsprint annually. The plant, located just south of the Kings Dominion theme park, opened in 1979. The company said the 165 employees of its Bear Island mill were notified Wednesday of the pending closure. The final date of operations will be announced shortly, the company said. click Read More below for more of the story
ND Paper, a leading North American producer of pulp, paper, and paper-based packaging, is implementing a series of transformations at its Rumford Division to further expand into packaging grades.
In its current configuration, the fully integrated Rumford Division operates three paper production lines, kraft and mechanical pulping assets, and a pulp dryer; its product mix is heavily weighted toward bleached grades serving printing and writing (P&W) markets. With the COVID-19 pandemic battering economic activity across the world, demand for P&W papers has plummeted; coated woodfree and coated mechanical papers — primary Rumford grades — are expected to decline 23.5% and 30.3% year-over-year, respectively, equivalent to over 1.4 million tons of output.
To ensure a viable, profitable future for the Rumford Division, ND Paper will be transforming the mill to increase its product flexibility and shift further into packaging grades. Notable changes include:
• Commissioning of an unbleached recycled pulp line to provide fiber flexibility to the R12 and R15 paper machines
• Conversion of its R15 paper machine from P&W papers into lightweight, high strength kraft linerboard products
• Expansion of R12 paper machine capability to include unbleached recycled bag and converting papers, in addition to its current offering of bleached and unbleached papers
• Continued operation of the R9 pulp dryer, including expansion into unbleached softwood kraft market pulp
• Permanent curtailment of mechanical pulping operations and R15 coating and supercalender assets
The newly rebuilt R10 paper machine will continue to deliver high-quality P&W and Specialty products for ND Paper’s base of existing customers. Oxford C1S, Orion, Vision, Escanaba, and Dependoweb grades currently produced on R15 will be transitioned to the R10 and Biron B26 assets, minimizing disruption to loyal customers. Additionally, the R12 machine, with both bleached and unbleached capability, will manufacture Rumford Offset, as well as recycled and kraft papers for multi-wall bags, retail bags, and converting applications.
“The onset of this unprecedented demand decline happened much more quickly than could possibly be anticipated,” commented Group Deputy Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Ken Liu. “However, while other mills have exited the market and closed their doors, ND Paper is repurposing the Rumford Division for a competitive future. Moving our largest Rumford machine into packaging grades helps to balance the deteriorating P&W market in North America, while simultaneously positioning us into bigger and more stable packaging paper markets. I would like to thank the mill and project team for their work over the past year leading to this transition.”
ND Paper expects this work to be completed by the end of 2020.