The last ream of Reflex white paper’s been produced at the Maryvale Paper Mill, creating uncertainty for more than 90 workers in the production room. Source: Timberbiz
Opal Australian Paper’s closure of the production of white paper means Australia will need to rely on imports, potentially sending paper prices skyrocketing.
The mill, near Traralgon in eastern Victoria, was the nation’s last producer of white paper, which has a variety of uses, including office supplies, exercise books, printed bills, envelopes and custom posters.
Opal Australian Paper has struggled to source the native timber needed to produce white paper because of regulations placed on logging after multiple long court battles.
The laws have left VicForests unable to meet some contracts and the Maryvale mill emptied its stockpile in the time spent seeking a solution.
Line operator Trevor Patton told the ABC he was working at the mill on Saturday morning when the final ream for the foreseeable future came off the lines.
“It was very surreal — for us guys that have been there for anywhere between 10 to 20 years, it was a bit strange to see that last ream,” he said.
“We took a photo, and we were smiling in the photo … but that wasn’t the way we were feeling at the time.
“It was a very sad moment.”
Opal has not said it will permanently stop manufacturing white paper at the plant but that it was “seriously considering” the future closure of its white paper operations.
The mill previously produced up to 200,000 tonnes of white paper per year, with 300 reams of paper created a minute.
Mr Patton, who has worked at the mill for 16 years, told the ABC he was uncertain about the future.
“I’m supposed to go back [to work] next Saturday, but at this stage it doesn’t look like they’re going to have anything for us to do,” he said.
“We’ll be temporarily stood down until they can work out what they’re going to do with us all.”
The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union organiser at the mill, Anthony Pavey, said 50 workers had already been stood down, and he expected another 70 workers to be stood down by this weekend.
The mill is the biggest private employer in the Latrobe Valley, a region that has already dealt with significant job losses from the closure of various coal mines in the region.
Mr Pavey told the ABC there was some hope an alternative supply of timber could be found in the long-term, with discussions with the state and federal government increasing this week.
He said there was no alternative to white paper, which is commonly used for schoolbooks, office paper and prescriptions.