No pellet operation for Steeltown

Community Featured

Company withdraws bid to purchase Trenton property

The company seeking to purchase the former Daewoo property in Trenton to operate a business there will not opening after all.

Richard Spinks, representing British Columbia-based-RMD Environmentals and the international consortium proposing a second-generation biofuels CoalSwitchTM facility to enable the recycling of end-of-life sawmill waste, confirmed the news to The Advocate.

“There will be no investment in Trenton based on the response we received from Nova Scotia Lands,” Spinks said.

Trenton Mayor Shannon MacInnis is disappointed in the news.

“The Town is disappointed to hear that the wood pellet plant is not going to happen in Trenton. We are confident that NS Lands will continue to work hard to find a business solution that works best for all parties involved,” he said.

Spinks is perplexed as to why his bid was not successful.

“At the NS Forestry AGM the day before we visited the Trenton site for a final review and meeting with senior management of NS Lands and the Town of Trenton, the minister of Forestry and Lands stated ‘we have no solutions’ yet; NS Lands — upon asking for and receiving our formal offer on the site — then informed RMDE that there were no less than 17 alternative uses on the table and that we’d have to “join the queue”. We asked what they were and why they had not been mentioned previously and we received no answer.”

He noted, “We offered the full $2.5 million asking price and the $50,000 deposit to remove the property from the market at NS Lands’ request, and were immediately met with silence and stonewalling. The price we offered was subsequently reduced in writing by NS Lands to $2.3 million without explanation,” Spinks said.

The pellet proposal would have created in the vicinity of 75 jobs and provided tax benefits to Trenton.

“Funding had been agreed conditionally upon the site offer being accepted and final due diligence the very same day, from a globally renowned environmental fund in San Francisco at around $84 million. The fund continues to work with RMDE on alternative opportunities and supports the technology and the plan for a number of alternative opportunities across Canada,” Spinks said.

When asked what his next move was, Spinks did not hesitate to say: “We will explore other properties that are not government-owned.”

He added, “We acted in good faith and were treated shoddily. I feel we were used as a stalking horse to set the price of the property which government has failed to sell for some years now. We had hoped we’d be treated with more respect, coming as we did to help in a crisis.”

Nova Scotia Lands, Spinks says, issued unacceptable demands, which were challenged in a March 16 letter to government representatives from Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson, indigenous businessman, published author and chairman of RMDE, Inc., based out of British Columbia.

Derrickson wrote: “We attempted on several occasions last week to communicate with government to re-draft the two points of their demanded, notarially sworn document, to enable both parties to feel comfortable. I have seen email responses from NS Lands, purported to be on behalf of other unnamed government representatives clearly stating that Nova Scotia’s government will not speak with RMDE or its representatives until potentially incriminating and ethically questionable statements are sworn at notary and delivered to Nova Scotia government representatives. This is unacceptable and must be questioned.

“Based on certain demands being made of RMDE … we are forced to conclude that it is not in our best interest or that of our commercial partners to pursue further this opportunity. We are forced to believe now that to do so would likely defeat our goal of moving quickly and with enough momentum to make a meaningful and positively beneficial contribution to maintaining jobs in the forestry industry supply chain following the closure of Northern Pulp. We further believe that this opportunity has been squandered by Nova Scotia, being as it was that not one cent of public funding was requested or required to complete the project entirely at our own risk.”

Derrickson writes: “We are proceeding with other opportunities which can be concluded more expediently and without unacceptable demands from government departments, whose role it is to attract investment, not to deter the same.”

Spinks has said he believes the time is right for his proposal because of the closure of Northern Pulp which, he said, has created a void in the forestry supply chain. He has also maintained “the supply chain is critical to this investment and the reason we are willing to invest. If too much time passes and the forestry supply chain deteriorates to a certain point, then it may become too late for us to help.”

Central Nova MP Sean Fraser said he never had an opportunity to speak with Spinks about the proposal. “I did see his name in my calendar for a meeting, but because of the COVID-19 protocols surrounding face-to-face meetings, that meeting never took place. I am still willing to meet with Mr. Spinks.”

Pat Dunn, MLA for Pictou Centre where the property is, is also disappointed.

“Any opportunity to find someone interested in buying the 120 acres is a good opportunity. Anyone with an interest in purchasing the property, of any nature or any size, is good news.”

Dunn said he and the two other Pictou County MLAs met with Spinks. “He seemed to have all of his i’s dotted and t’s crossed and to be ready to go. This interest in the property was encouraging, given the current economic times. It’s a real disappointment that it’s not going ahead. It’s frustrating it fell off the rails. The business to the town was certainly needed.”

Dunn, who grew up in Trenton noted, “While I may not be aware of all of the facts, I wonder what caused this to go sour and chase this business away.”

Chamber executive director Jack Kyte acknowledged the proposal “seemed like a simple solution to markets lost with the shut down of Northern Pulp. But as stakeholders attempted to understand the plan, there were too many questions to be answered.

“The project proponents wanted fast approval but that was never possible with a project of this nature, particularly when the old Trenton Works property was part of the proposal. The province is being very careful in selling the Trenton Works buildings, given past experience.”

Speaking on behalf of Nova Scotia Lands David MacNeil, “We had asked RMDE for specific requests to start our end of the due diligence process. RMDE chose to not provide the information as requested, and eventually withdrew its offer. We did not “turn down” the offer, RMDE withdrew it.”

There has been other interest in the property. MacNeil said, “We have had several companies express interest in the site but none of these had advanced to the stage of making a serious offer. We want to attract companies that will be in Pictou County for the long term and provide long-lasting benefits to the province and community. That is why our due diligence process is so important.”

Dunn has a wish for the property: “I would like to see the government, some time in the future when appropriate, to gift the land that once was a sprawling industrial facility. This would be a very good will gesture to a town that certainly needs a boost. The property belonged to Trenton since the beginning of the Industrial Age and it provided taxes to the area and government for over 100 years. Perhaps it is time to say thank you to the town. This is something that Nova Scotia governments have done in the past. This would give the town the authority to act on this parcel of land to enhance the area, be it a business park or an opportunity to create a beautiful sub-division in town which would provide additional tax dollars.”