April 15, 2005
(Natural Resources)

Government meets with Abitibi to discuss future operations

Premier Danny Williams and Ed Byrne, Minister of Natural Resources, met yesterday with John Weaver, President and Chief Executive Officer of Abitibi Consolidated Incorporated (ACI), to discuss the future of the company�s mills in Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor.

"Our government is keenly aware of the feeling of uncertainty being experienced by workers at the two mills during Abitibi�s current review of its operations in the province," said Minister Byrne. "Our government is also concerned about the future direction of those operations, so we welcomed the opportunity to meet with Mr. Weaver and his officials to discuss in detail ACI�s plans for the future. From government�s perspective, we made it very clear to Mr. Weaver that this government will do everything reasonably within our power to ensure the future viability of these mills which are economic engines in those regions of the province."

Government reiterated to Mr. Weaver government�s position that Abitibi maintain a three-machine operation in the province.

"Government�s position has been clearly stated publicly, and we reiterated it to Abitibi yesterday," said Minister Byrne. "If the company chooses to close the number seven machine in Grand Falls-Windsor, government will indeed impose the legislation governing those operations, and revoke the company�s timber licences. I don�t think this will be in anyone�s best interest."

ACI has stated publicly that one of the main issues in terms of the operations in Newfoundland and Labrador is power supply. As such, they are proposing the construction of a hydro development in the province which would include a power purchase agreement.

"We told the company that we are willing to discuss the possibility of a power purchase agreement," added Minister Byrne. "Our main priority is to act in the best interests of people of the province, particularly those in communities dependent on ACI's operations, and any potential agreement must achieve this objective."

Minister Byrne said the meeting was a good discussion and government will continue an open dialogue with Abitibi as the process moves forward.

Media contact: Carmel Turpin, Natural Resources, (709) 729-5282, (709) 685-4624

2005 04 15                          4:05 p.m.

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