Resolute is set for a restart at the Ignace sawmill. 

"We're going to reopen with one shift next week, and that's going to increase the on-site employment to about 25 people," said spokesman Seth Kursman yesterday.

The company's hoping to reach two and a half shifts over the next few months. This would increase the on-site jobs to about 60. However, with the woodland operators and contractors to support the operation, Kursman estimates about 180 jobs might be closer to the total for the area, as a result of the restart.

Kursman added they idled the sawmill in 2019, but kept a skeleton staff on hand. They were also spending about $125,000 a month to maintain the mill.

"We were hoping market conditions would improve, and we would have the wood to supply the mill. Things are looking better," he said during yesterday's interview, before giving credit to the provincial government -- including MPP Greg Rickford -- for their red tape reduction strategy.

Kursman acknowledged the U.S. is still the mill's largest market, and the softwood lumber dispute continues. He said Resolute has about $250 million in American dollars in deposits ($318 million Canadian), which are tied up during the dispute.

"Hopefully we can get that addressed and resolved sometime soon, because every dollar you put in to deposit with the U.S. Department of Commerce is a dollar you can't invest in the restart of your operation," Kursman continued.

Still, he says the resolution of the tariff dispute isn't a condition for the restart. Kursman said there was enough demand for new housing construction and renovation in the American market to justify the recall.

He said the company was also satisfied they had enough wood supply.

"We work real hard to secure the wood. Having enough logs is a tenuous situation in northwestern Ontario. We believe we can make it work," he said, adding they share or trade wood with other companies in the area.

Unifor members were looking for a concession from Resolute on access to wood, in order to facilitate a restart at the Kenora sawmill, but Kursman didn't want to comment on the wood supply situation for the Kenora operation, which is owned by Itasca Capital.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has said they're working Greenfirst Forest Products on its proposal to restart the Kenora sawmill at 650,000 cubic metres per year. The ministry said there may also be Indigenous communities and licence holders involved in the restart process in Kenora.

The Ignace area is also a finalist in the selection process for the nuclear waste depository. Site construction for the depository is expected to need 800 local jobs, and operations will be roughly 700 local jobs. Extended monitoring over 70 years will be roughly 170 local jobs, and decommissioning the repository will create 250 jobs. A decision is expected in 2023.

(Images courtesy of Resolute)