Mercer considering more satellite yards

Mercer’s 2019 General Development Plan was shown to Northern Sunrise County on Sept. 10.

Company submits plan to Northern Sunrise County

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

Peace River’s pulp mill is working on improving its safety and possibly adding more satellite yards as part of the company’s ongoing development plans.

Mercer Peace River Pulp employs about 300 people in the Peace River area. The mill was previously owned by Daishowa Marubeni International but was acquired by Mercer in 2018, increasing Mercer’s annual production capacity for pulp by over 40 per cent.

Mercer now owns large scale modern pulp mills in both Germany and Canada, including the Rosenthal, Friesau and Stendal mills in eastern Germany, Celgar mill in southeastern British Columbia, and the Cariboo Pulp & Paper mill north of Vancouver.

Ryan Hee, woodlands operations supervisor, and Mikel Jack- man, planning supervisor, presented the company’s new development plan to Northern Sunrise County on Sept. 10.

“All of our mills focus on quality, efficiency and human capital, and I can say that while DMI was an excellent employer with a very good safety record, and very focused on high quality, Mercer even takes it another step up,” Jackman told council.

“We are doing some more work on our safety programs, improving our quality in our operations, and they’re here for the long haul and they’re making the investments in people and property to make sure that happens.”

Mercer is implementing a safety program called Road to Zero, with the goal to have zero safety incidents.

“It’s something that our CEO David Gandossi truly believes in,” Hee said.

When Reeve Carolyn Kolebaba asked how many incidents the Peace River mill has had in past, Jackman said, “Most of our incidents occur around things like truck overloads. We have very few actual safety incidents in our operation, but we want to have even less.”

Mercer has two forest management areas on either side of the Peace River. Each FMA has its own management plan and deciduous timber allocation. Jackman said the two timber allocations amount to about 3 million cubic metres combined annually.

Kolebaba asked if that was relatively large.

“Yes. It’s one of the larger timber allocations in the province,” Jackman said.

Council heard Mercer Peace River is the only woodlands department in the company that actually has a timber allocation. All of the other mills including the ones in Germany purchase their wood chips.

“So, yeah, that makes us unique to the Mercer family,” Jackman said.

The Mercer PRP general development plan presented to council included cut control tables, which identify the annual allowable cut versus the actual volume harvested by year, and plans of areas to be harvested in the next three years.

It also included information about the areas cut in the previous year [i.e. roads, cut blocks, etc.] along with any outstanding actions to be completed from the previous timber year.

“When we harvest we have reforestation obligations that we have to continue and those are tracked for at least an eight-year period before they come off the books so those are always outstanding things that we have to do,” Jackman said.

“Our goal is within two years after a cut block is harvested that all the reclamation activities are gone and reforestation has started.”

Deputy Reeve Norm Duval said the new way Mercer reclaims a cutblock is interesting.

“Everyone envisions a square cut open, but the way they pattern their cut blocks would be representative of a fire scenario … so you leave a lot of clumps of trees in there,” Duval said. “People will visualize a square quarter section of trees gone, but it isn’t like that anymore.”

“That could be a whole day presentation on our ecosystem based management planning that we do, and it is very different than traditional cut blocks,” Jackman said. “It is a huge shift socially, corporately, ecologically on how things are done now.”

Jackman then reviewed the company’s tentative plans to expand its satellite yard program.

“So we’re still focusing on chipping, that is still our primary activity, but we are also starting some satellite yards and we’re in year two of the satellite yard trials or plans we’re doing,” he said.

“We do have one satellite yard located on bottom of east haul road, in this county, and then we have another one we set up just kind of northwest of Manning. We have a couple more that we’re contemplating right now but we’re going through some processes so we’ll have to see how those pan out.”

“The reason for the satellite yards is in the past 15 years we’ve relied quite heavily off of private wood timber purchases through the summer time to keep fibre flowing through the mill in the summer time because we don’t have enough capacity to hold enough chips on site to get us through the entire non-frozen operation from frozen to frozen,” he explained.

“We still need to bring some stuff in in the summer time and the private wood supply is shrinking quite drastically so the objective was to set up the satellite yards where we can pull off highway weights into them, stage wood there we can chip through the summer time and bring deliveries into the mill.”

The two satellite yards Mercer is considering would be near Dixonville around the grazing reserve, and another in cooperation with the Lubicon. However, that yard is still in the discussion phase.

Jackman said Mercer has upcoming operations planned around Keg River, Hawk Hills, Carcajou just north of Manning, Clear River, a haul road in Cache Creek and Kepler Creek, and around Simon Lake just north of Cadotte Lake.

Reeve Kolebaba asked if the recent northern wildfires have affected Mercer’s plans.

“I’m not going to say it didn’t affect us, but it hasn’t really had a huge impact on our plans,” Jackman said.

Most of the upcoming chipping will happen during frozen ground conditions, and then Mercer will focus on satellite yards after spring break-up. Jackman said Mercer also gets some incidental volume from Boucher Bros. and others.

“We all work together to make sure the right fibre gets to the right places,” Jackman said.

Jackman also reassured Councillor Gaylene Whitehead indigenous consultation is conducted as part of Mercer’s development planning.

The Forest Management Areas which Mercer Peace River Pulp owns is clearly shown on the map.

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