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Company changed location from St. Anthony to Hawke’s Bay after advice from government employee
GREAT NORTHERN PENINSULA, N.L.
St. Anthony was once Active Energy Group’s (AEG) chosen destination for a pellet plant now planned for Hawke’s Bay.
The Northern Pen has obtained government emails and memos, via an access to information request, including a Department of Fisheries and Land Resources internal direction/decision note dated Oct. 29. It recommends the department establish a pellet plant in St. Anthony.
The directive adds that the AEG’s product, CoalSwitch black wood pellets, would be exported “to Poland through the local port.”
However, in late November, just a few weeks after the Oct. 29 note was issued, the company and the province announced the plant would be located in Hawke’s Bay with shipping to take place from that area.
Richard Spinks, managing director for Timberlands International (Newfoundland and Labrador), a subsidiary of AEG, that has been granted the permits, appears to have reconsidered the location after a meeting with government officials on or around Oct. 31, 2018.
George Gibbons, district manager for Forestry areas 17 and 18, in an Oct. 31 email to Eric Young, director of Forest Engineering and Industry Services, indicated he (Gibbons) had just met with Spinks to discuss the location of a “new facility”.
“I feel the meeting was positive and I know (Spinks) now has a better idea of where the resource is located,” Gibbons wrote. “I told him that if constructing a new facility that it was better to centralize to his existing wood supply. I gave him a maps for couple of locations on the western side of the peninsula and told him to visit port facilities in Port Saunders and Port au Choix. He certainly has an appreciation of why and how individuals in the Tri-Town area must be tied to this project if it proceeds.”
The Tri-Town area is comprised of Port Saunders, Port au Choix and Hawke’s Bay.
The meeting between Spinks and Gibbons would have been held just a day after Spinks met with the St. Anthony and Area Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 30.
During the chamber of commerce meeting, Spinks implied shipping would be conducted from the St. Anthony port.
On Nov. 4, Spinks emailed Young expressing that changes would, “significantly improve the financial and logistical/operations feasibility of the (districts) 17/18 project.”
Spinks continues, “In addition the proposal would reduce ‘political risk’ at the local GNP level with communities in (district) 17 being included now rather than feeling excluded, which I feel is a significant improvement.”
Just a few days later, on Nov. 7, a revised recommendation was issued, stating the plant should be established in Hawke’s Bay.
The emails and direction note confirmed St. Anthony Mayor Desmond McDonald’s suspicions that the company’s plans had changed in the month prior to the announcement.
“The decision is made now so there’s no point in kicking a dead dog now,” he told The Northern Pen. “But it’s disappointing. Somebody obviously pulled some weight to get this to go a different direction.
“We’re still happy there’s development on the Northern Peninsula, but I just wish that the process was a little more transparent.”
Spinks told The Northern Pen in December that Hawke’s Bay was chosen due to its adjacency to most of the forestry product.
The company’s annual allowable cut will be 100,000 cubic metres, with 65,000 permitted for forestry management area 17. The other 35,000 is permitted for area 18.
In other words, 65 per cent of the company’s timber permits are in area 17 where Hawke’s Bay is located.
St. Anthony is located several kilometres outside of area 17.