A news story on the Arkansas Democrat Gazette's website said that Sun Paper received an air permit from the state of Arkansas on Sept. 23, which allows the company to start construction of a proposed $1.8 billion pulp and paper mill.

The mill project was formally announced on April 26, 2016 when Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a memorandum of understanding with Hongxin Li, the founder and chairman of Sun Paper. The original plan called for an investment of $1-1.3 billion

for the construction of a mill with the annual capacity to produce 600,000 tons of dissolving wood pulp. Construction was expected to be underway in the first half of 2017.

The proposed project, however, changed course at some point in the second half of 2016 or early in 2017 when Sun Paper had second thoughts about producing dissolving pulp at the site and decided to change the product to linerboard, while the mill's annual capacity would be 4,400 tons per day on two production lines, according to local news reports.

Stephen Bell, President and CEO of the Arkadelphia Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the decision to produce linerboard instead of dissolving pulp pushed back the timeline to begin the project.

In a news story in June of 2018, Bell explained, "Chairman Li of Sun Paper was concerned that the market [dissolving pulp] would be saturated by the time they entered the market during the two-year construction period. He said we need to change products."

The change in product also boosted Sun Paper's estimate to build the re-proposed plant to about $1.8 billion.

According to a Sept. 23, 2019 AP news story, Sun Paper Consultant Ray Dillon says design engineering can now begin, but a construction date hasn't been set. Dillon noted that further delays could arise unless the US trade dispute with China is resolved.

SOURCE: Numerous news stories

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