Hanover paper mill closure to lay off 165

white birch paper

The Bear Island paper mill at 10026 Old Ridge Road in Hanover County. (Jonathan Spiers)

A Connecticut-based paper manufacturer is idling its Hanover County newsprint mill, resulting in the layoff of 165 employees.

White Birch Paper announced Wednesday it is ceasing operations indefinitely at its Bear Island mill northwest of Ashland.

In a statement, President Christopher Brant said challenging market pricing and costs and declining demand necessitated the move. The Bear Island mill produced 240,000 metric tons of newsprint annually, including thermo-mechanical pulp and recycled content newsprint.

The affected employees were notified Wednesday morning of the closure, the effective date of which is to be announced. Severance and job placement services will be offered.

The statement said the company will explore alternative industrial options for the site in coming months. Trucks were still delivering timber to the mill as of Wednesday afternoon.

The Bear Island mill was constructed in 1979 on about 250 acres off Old Ridge Road, just south of Kings Dominion and adjacent to the State Fair of Virginia site.

It was the first mill in the U.S. to use a grinding and steam pressure technique to produce pulp, according to the White Birch Paper website. The newsprint it produced was used in general printing, newspaper publishing and advertising circulars.

White Birch Paper was acquired in 2012 by BD White Birch Investment LLC, two years after the company and its Hanover mill filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. BD White Birch Investment is a Canadian paper manufacturer affiliated with investment firm Black Diamond Capital Management that at the time was the second-largest newsprint manufacturer in North America.

Continuing to operate as White Birch Paper, the company maintains three other paper mills, all in the Quebec province.

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