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Canada courted for its forests

Ingrained in the Canadian consciousness (in the Eastern provinces at least), is the idea of "have" and "have-not" provinces, and the ideal of redistributing wealth to achieve parity between the two. B...


August 1, 2010
By Pulp & Paper Canada

Topics
Cindy Macdonald Editor

Ingrained in the Canadian consciousness (in the Eastern provinces at least), is the idea of “have” and “have-not” provinces, and the ideal of redistributing wealth to achieve parity between the two. But on a global scale, in the have and have-not accounting of wood fibre, it’s not the have-nots that are lusting after Canada’s natural riches. It’s players in the regions that have substantial fibre available who want more.

Witness the just-announced agreement to sell Howe Sound Pulp & Paper to Netherlands-based Paper Excellence BV. This is the same company that bought an idled Mackenzie, B.C. pulp mill only three months ago.

Paper Excellence is a unit of Indonesia’s Sinar Mas, which already has a significant amount of vertically integrated pulp and paper capacity through its Asia Pulp & Paper subsidiary.

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European and Asian businesses also covet our fibre for bioenergy applications. When a dozen Canadian bioenergy and forest companies visited Beijing on a trade mission in May, Kai Johan Jiang, president of DP Cleantech, China’s largest bioenergy power producer, told the Canadians: “China has $20 billion to invest in renewable energy overseas. And Canada, with its ready supply of renewable biomass and the technology to convert it to energy and high-value products, is a very attractive partner for us.”

Mired as we are in bankruptcies and mill closures, it’s good to be reminded that this industry does still have opportunities. Ours is an industry with a heavy burden of infrastructure and tradition, but it doesn’t have to be moribund.

New investors are cropping up, and they bring fresh ideas, as well as an influx of more tangible resources. Levi Sampson shook things up at Harmac (now Nanaimo Forest Products), and Chad Wasilenkoff is set to do the same thing at Thurso (see page 28).

Domtar, capitalizing on research performed by our own FPInnovations, is getting into a brand new offshoot of forest products: nanotech. See the story on page 15 for details about the demonstration plant being built at Domtar’s Windsor, Que., pulp and paper mill.

We will get a more diversified, more agile industry out of this latest downturn, but not without some pain. At the grassroots level, mills are closing, and efforts to save them are ongoing. The Eurocan mill in Kitimat, B.C. is the most visible rescue effort. Whether or not that group is successful in finding a buyer, the story illuminates some of the frustration and determination of Canadian mill workers.

We are most definitely a “have” country when it comes to resources. We can rebuild our forest communities on that foundation.


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