With the recent acquisition of a pulp mill in Lebel-sur-Quévillon, Fortress Paper will add a second dissolving pulp facility to its production line. The mill was previously owned by Domtar but had been closed since 2005.
The Northern Québec town has a long history of pulp and paper manufacturing. In fact, it was founded in the mid 1940s by loggers who arrived in the remote area to send logs down the Bell River. The industry really began to boom when a logging contractor named Jean-Baptiste Lebel opened a sawmill in the nearby hamlet of Rapide-des-Cèdres. Interested in capitalizing on a huge forest of black spruce that extended thousands of square kilometres, Lebel undertook the challenge of “building modern facilities in the heart of this great forest” where he could “process the raw material on site.”
In 1963, Domtar began drafting plans for such a plant in Lebel-sur-Quévillon and in 1964 zones were cleared for the construction of the town. The following year the one-time logging camp was incorporated as a town, and by 1966 the mill was up and running.
That summer, people from all over the province of Québec emigrated to the new town to work at the mill. Being a town literally founded for the purpose of working in the forestry sector, the Lebel-sur-Quévillon has been considered primarily a lumber town since its inception.
When the Domtar mill closed in 2005, the impact to the region was significant.
According to census reports, the town’s population decreased by 15 per cent the years following the closure. Some silver lining was added to the town’s workforce nearly three years later when a zinc mine in nearby Gonzague-Langlois was bought by Nyrstar, a Belgian-based company and served to restore nearly 200 jobs in the region. In 2011, the National Post reported that the mining operation would produce about 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes of zinc annually plus copper and by-products.
Today, the re-opening and re-purposing of the pulp mill directly offers residents of Lebel-sur-Quévillon even more opportunity for growth and employment in the Northern Québecois town.
“This project demonstrates the insight and perseverance of the Quebec government and Fortress Paper in developing a unique opportunity which has been latent for several years, but when completed will revitalize the community of Lebel-sur-Quévillon and the surrounding areas of Northern Quebec,” Chad Wasilenkoff, CEO of Fortress Paper, said in an announcement this past January.
Pulp & Paper Canada: “Fortress Buys Lebel-sur-Quévillon Mill For Dissolving Pulp
Working Forest: “Quebec Lebel-Sur-Quevillon Closed Pulp Town Now Mining Town”