09/12/2012 11:17 EDT | Updated 11/12/2012 05:12 EST

Pacific West Commercial looks to diversify product line from Cape Breton mill

HALIFAX - The prospective owner of the idled NewPage Port Hawkesbury mill in Cape Breton says the company is looking at options to diversify markets for the mill's products.

Marc Dube, the restructuring manager for Pacific West Commercial Corp., told the Antigonish Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday that would mean making more than paper from their fibre supply, including extracting sugar, which can also be used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

"Those are the types of things," he added. "Now you take that sugar and extract from it the things that you can make pharmaceuticals from, the things you can make cosmetics from."

Dube said the company believes this is a solution that will keep the mill operating for the next 50 years.

Pacific West Commercial is also looking at using a local wharf to ship products by boat.

"We're actually looking at using the wharf so that we can bring products in that we can use to improve the business, but also we're going to ship some product out by boat," Dube said. "We may ship product out by boat through the Great Lakes and get to our customers that way cost effectively."

Pacific West Commercial also wants to form partnerships with post-secondary institutions.

Meanwhile, Richmond County is appealing a Nova Scotia Supreme Court decision to hear an application that seeks the cancellation of a municipal tax deal for the idled paper mill.

In documents filed with the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, the county says Judge John Murphy erred in finding that legislation fixing municipal tax rates paid by the mill simply enabled the deal to proceed.

The county has maintained that only the provincial legislature has the authority to amend a tax arrangement set out in legislation.

However, in his ruling last month, Murphy said he didn't believe there was anything that prevented the parties from terminating the tax agreement.

Pacific West Commercial contends it should pay about one-third of its estimated tax bill of $2.5 million, something the county says would result in a 20 per cent tax hike for residents.

A court hearing on the merits of the company's argument is scheduled for Thursday in Halifax, while the county will appear in court on its appeal Sept. 26.

(The Canadian Press, CIGO, CJFX)