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A fire at American Iron and Metal's scrapyard facility in Saint John on Sept. 14, 2023. Image: Submitted/Jennifer Mai

Will AIM be allowed to stay at Port Saint John?

By Brad Perry Sep 19, 2023 | 1:50 PM

Discussions were underway to move some of American Iron and Metal’s operations from Port Saint John, even before last week’s fire.

Port CEO Craig Bell Estabrooks made the comments during a media availability with Premier Blaine Higgs on Tuesday morning.

“We had already started the conversation with AIM to explore moving the metal shredding component of the operation off port property but these discussions were in very early stages,” Bell Estabrooks told reporters.

The news conference followed a late Monday announcement that a joint task force is being formed to investigate the blaze.

Last week’s fire inside a massive pile of crushed cars burned over the course of two days, prompting a voluntary city-wide shelter-in-place order due to air quality concerns.

Bell Estabrooks said the port is reviewing its lease with AIM, but it is too soon to say what the outcome of that review could be.

“We’re looking at the compliance, the terms of conditions of that lease with our legal counsel,” he said. “They’re looking at all aspects of that lease.”

On Monday, Saint John council passed a motion calling on the premier and the province to shut AIM Recycling down once and for all.

Premier Blaine Higgs did not make a firm commitment but hinted that the facility may never restart its operations.

“That facility will not start up until an investigation is complete and we’re satisfied that it can run, and right now, given what’s happened leading into this, there’s a lot of doubt about that,” said Higgs.

Last week’s fire was the latest in a series of incidents at the facility, such as numerous explosions and two workplace fatalities.

Bell Estabrooks said he understands where city council and the mayor are coming from with their request to shut down AIM once and for all.

“I live two streets up from the terminal. I felt it and I get it. I share their frustration as well, which is why we’ve launched this task force,” he said.

Bell Estabrooks also confirmed that, as part of the lease, AIM should have had operating security cameras on-site at the time of the fire.

The CEO of AIM has told multiple media outlets that his cameras were not working at the time due to a cyber attack months earlier.