Verso Paper Corp. (NYSE:VRS) announced today that it has completed a preliminary assessment of the damage resulting from the recent explosion and fire at its paper mill in Sartell, Minnesota. The incident at the Sartell mill on May 28, 2012, which claimed the life of one Verso employee and injured four others, caused substantial damage to the mill’s paper warehouse and important infrastructure including the electrical system. While a visual inspection of the mill’s paper machine indicates that it was not damaged, the operability of the paper machine has not yet been confirmed. Based on the preliminary damage assessment, Verso has concluded that a period of several months would be required to complete the necessary repairs to the mill. Verso intends to continue the damage assessment and will make a decision on the mill’s future once the assessment is completed. Verso has determined that over 5,000 tons of finished paper and work-in-process inventory were destroyed by the explosion and fire at the Sartell mill. Verso is working closely with its customers to provide alternative paper supplies in an effort to meet their needs in a timely manner. “Verso is appreciative of the cooperation and flexibility that our customers have demonstrated as we work together to resolve the production, supply and logistical issues resulting from this unfortunate, unforeseen event,” said Mike Weinhold, Verso’s Senior Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Product Development. “The tragic loss of our employee, Jon Maus, makes this an especially difficult time for Verso and our employees,” said Dave Paterson, Verso’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Our collective thoughts and prayers continue for Jon’s wife Lucy, their children, and the rest of the Maus family.” Verso also continues to offer counseling services for all employees affected by the Sartell incident. Parallel with the damage assessment, Verso has begun an investigation into the origin and cause of the explosion and fire at the Sartell mill. “Our top priority is to determine why this unfortunate event happened and to make sure that nothing like it ever happens again,” said Paterson. The Sartell mill has consistently achieved “Star” status in the Voluntary Protection Program sponsored by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which recognizes employers and employees who have demonstrated exemplary achievement in the prevention and control of occupational safety and health hazards.