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Update on Boniferro Mill Works

Boniferro Mill Works President and CEO Jim Boniferro says the mill is now operating at, or close to, its pre-shutdown production levels.

Boniferro Mill Works President and CEO Jim Boniferro says the mill is now operating at, or close to, its pre-shutdown production levels.

"Thanks to the help of the City, it only took two weeks to get the siding (rail spur) to a condition where we could use it," says Boniferro. "It isn't finished, yet, but it is safe to use."

He says all 48 employees are back on the job at the Sault's hardwood sawmill on Third Line Road.

The mill announced a temporary shutdown on April 30 to manage its cash flow and laid off 41 employees at that time.

Boniferro told "We had a meeting with the employees shortly after we restarted on May 22, just to bring them up to date. They are very supportive and understanding of the difficulties we are facing."

Boniferro said the mill has been struggling with energy costs, tax rates, fuel costs and other expenses, particularly a heavy burden from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

"Through its first four years of operation, the mill has been assessed more than $1 million in residual value charges by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources," said Boniferro's shutdown announcement. "The past unfair residual value charges have contributed to the position the company is in today."

When the company also lost its primary mode of shipping product to market, Boniferro had to make the tough decision to cease operations for an indefinite amount of time.

He said that at least two of the major burdens to cash flow have recently been lightened.

"We successfully reclassifying the mill as a smaller producer with the Ontario Energy Board and the Municipal Properties Assessment Corporation (MPAC) to reduce energy and tax costs," Boniferro said. "We have an exellent working relationship with them."

Then, on April 30, the City of Sault Ste. Marie chipped in with a $60,000 interest-free loan to allow Boniferro to bring the railspur crossing its property up to safety standards for the businesses that use it.

Although it does cross Boniferro property, the mill is not alone in its dependence on the spur, which designated unfit for use and abandoned by CN Rail this spring.

"And now the Canadian dollar is making it tough for us as well," said Boniferro. "But we don't give up that easily."

He said the mill is in the process of getting reclassified with the Ministry of Natural Resources, in hopes that some residual value charges will be forgiven and future charges reduced.

"We are sustainable and we plan to be here for the long haul," he said.

The siding will be finished as soon as the contractor doing the work can return to the job site.

"Right now he's doing some work in their [CN Rail] yard," said Boniferro.

Meanwhile, Boniferro Mill Works, Algoma Steel Inc., Anthony Domtar Ltd. and others are all, once again, shipping product to market over that siding.