HALIFAX - A Nova Scotia judge has granted an idled paper mill in Cape Breton 10 more weeks of creditor protection as a court-appointed monitor tries to finalize a sale of the 50-year-old operation.

Judge John Murphy of the provincial Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to extend the protection for NewPage Port Hawkesbury until March 30. It was set to expire Friday.

Mathew Harris, a spokesman for court-appointed monitor Ernst & Young, says the time is needed to continue negotiations with Pacific West Commercial Corp.

Harris said he hopes to return to court for approval of a sales agreement by mid-February.

Pacific West Commercial has said it intends to restart one of the mill's two paper machines if the sale is approved, but a number of hurdles remain.

It still has to complete talks with Nova Scotia Power on energy costs, and it must also negotiate deals with the union on a collective agreement and pension. Talks must also be held to discuss wood costs for fibre suppliers.

Harris said talks between Pacific West Commercial and Nova Scotia Power are underway, and if there is a deal on energy rates, it may have to be presented to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board for approval.

Archie MacLachlan, first vice-president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, said that talks haven't started between Pacific West and his union yet.

"We're on hold," he said. "We're anticipating they will start to talk with us shortly."

The judge also approved the appointment of Peter Wedlake of Green Hunt Wedlake as chief restructuring officer.

Harris described Wedlake's job as being one of representing the board of the U.S.-based parent company as talks continue.

All but two members of the NewPage Port Hawkesbury board of directors have resigned as Wedlake takes over the responsibility of representing the parent firm.

The money-losing mill in Point Tupper, N.S., was closed in September, throwing 600 employees out of work, and affecting another 400 forest contractors.

It was shut down after struggling with soaring fuel and electricity costs, a strong Canadian dollar and declining demand.

The mill opened in 1962.