Land sale deal reached for pellet mill

Brad Mapes, majority owner of proposed wood pellet mill in Enterprise Standing in front of map of Enterprise at hamlet council

Brad Mapes, majority owner of proposed wood pellet mill in Enterprise
Standing in front of map of Enterprise at hamlet council

The final details have been agreed upon so proponents of a wood pellet mill can buy land in Enterprise.

All that remains is for Aurora Wood Pellets Ltd. and the Hamlet of Enterprise to sign the deal for 3.2 square kilometres on the north side of the community.

Brad Mapes, a Hay River businessman and majority owner of the company, said a signing ceremony for the land purchase will probably take place before the end of November.

“The agreement is reached,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting the legal part of it done.”

Mapes called the deal with the Hamlet of Enterprise another big step for the project.

“This is where we’ve got the land now,” he said. “And from there, things are going to fall in order a lot faster.”

Mapes said Aurora Wood Pellets Ltd. won’t likely get title to the land until May.

Afterward, there will be some clearing and preparatory work before construction starts next year.

“We’re pleased it’s moving forward,” said Mapes.

The Hamlet of Enterprise obtained the land in-principle from the Department of Lands in early September.

Enterprise Mayor John Leskiw II said the hamlet had actually hoped to transfer the land to Mapes in October but couldn’t do so because it didn’t have a deed at that time.

“Once we got the deed, we got into final negotiations with Mr. Mapes,” said Leskiw.

The Enterprise mayor said the final agreement was reached about two weeks ago.

“We really worked hard on this thing and we’re glad that it’s finally coming to fruition,” he said.

The agreement will deal with such things as the cost – which the Enterprise mayor wasn’t prepared to discuss at this time – when a downpayment is due, when full payment is due, and other terms and conditions.

“It’s very basic stuff mostly,” said Leskiw. “Like he cannot subdivide the land. That would go against our land plan. What things he has to come back to council before being able to do and what things he’s allowed to do on his own and so forth.”

Leskiw said the contract has to be signed before hamlet elections set for Dec. 14.

The Enterprise mayor said most of his council is pleased with the land sale agreement.

“There are still a few members who are not totally satisfied with it,” he said. “It is a rather large piece of land, I will admit. They wanted justification why he needed that much land when it was questionable.”

For his part, Leskiw said the larger the piece of land, the more taxes the hamlet will receive.

In mid-September, Enterprise council unanimously passed a motion to approve an agreement-in-principle to sell the land and at what price to Aurora Wood Pellets Ltd., pending legal advice and negotiation of conditions.

At that time, Leskiw told Mapes, who was at the meeting, that it could take eight to 10 weeks for the hamlet to go through the legal process before it finally agreed to a contract for the land sale.

Mapes, who recently was elected mayor of Hay River, has been working on the project for almost five years.

The mill is expected to take 14 months to build, meaning it could be operational by 2017.

It will produce at least 150,000 cubic metres of pellets each year but that could increase depending on supply.

A 150,000-cubic-metre production would mean about 45 to 50 jobs at the site and probably 55 truck drivers plus spinoff jobs.

Harvesting will be controlled by community groups, including in Fort Resolution and Fort Providence.

Mapes owns 97 per cent of the project, while the other three per cent is held by former NWT premier Joe Handley.