MILLINOCKET (AP) – Union officials have voiced concern at what they say is the failure of the owner of Katahdin Paper Co. to commit to a 2009 restart date for its Millinocket mill.

Duane Lugdon, a representative of the United Steelworkers International, said the uncertainty will likely force more workers than necessary to leave the area.

Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management, which owns the mill, said high oil prices forced the indefinite shutdown, but it hopes to resume production next year if it can reach agreement with a third party to install a biomass boiler.

“They keep telling us they are working diligently at this,” Lugdon said Sunday, “but if you look at it, (investment bank) Merrill Lynch was sold over a weekend, and we have been hearing about this (biomass plan and negotiations) since May.

Katahdin’s sister mill in East Millinocket remains in operation.

Eighteen workers were to have been laid off by last weekend, but more than 200 stand to lose their jobs once the shutdown is completed.

Brookfield has advised mill Manager Serge Sorokin to assemble a biomass transition team and develop a transition and mill operational plan to present to Brookfield directors, said Glenn Saucier, the mill’s personnel director.

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