Mill modernization project still a go

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
December 5th, 2010

Modernization of the Grand Forks sawmill and the construction of a co-generation facility are still on track for International Forest Products Ltd. (Interfor). The co-gen facility is contingent on approval of the purchase of power by BC Hydro, explained Vice-President and Chief Forester Ric Slaco, and their proposal may not be approved until mid-January of 2011. 

“Nothing has changed in our desire to get approval,” said Slaco. “We continue to put effort into work on the design and costing for the modernization of the mill itself. Projects like this, you spend a fair bit of time in getting the design right, selecting the equipment, getting the costing.”  Slaco said that the company hopes to see both projects go ahead, but they are not mutually tied to each other – the mill changes may go ahead without the co-gen project.  “The mill needs some work in our view to bring it up to standards,” added Slaco. “We’re looking long and hard at the things that are necessary to make that a success. The two other main factors are ensuring that we have good support at the community level – with our crew, our staff, and the community itself. That’s bee n very good so far. The other really big factor is the fiber supply.”  Past experience of the previous mill owners, Pope and Talbot, demonstrated that there is not enough fiber to operate two sawmills, so Slaco said they are looking closely at their supply options should these projects move forward. Recent announcements from the Boundary Sawmill project in Midway have indicated they secured an operator for their mill and continue to move forward in securing investors, and fiber.  Slaco confirmed that the Boundary Sawmill has not contacted Interfor although Boundary Sawmill’s community presentations have repeatedly assured the region’s residents that they want to partner with Interfor in some way.  “We support a competitive environment,” commented Slaco. “If something happened there that would be complementary that would be fine. But if they’re thinking there’s enough fiber in that area to support two facilities – I don’t think there is. Without knowing what their business plan is, who the operator is, or what they’re planning to do – it’s a bit uncertain at this time.”  Interfor will be providing more information when BC Hydro announces their decisions on power projects in January.

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