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Cariboo Pulp & Paper


February 1, 2005
By Pulp & Paper Canada

As this monthly column enters its third year, we continue in our quest to profile unique mill people from across Canada who have had a significant impact on both their workplace and on the industry…

As this monthly column enters its third year, we continue in our quest to profile unique mill people from across Canada who have had a significant impact on both their workplace and on the industry as a whole. This month, we travel to British Columbia, to a community with a rich history associated with both gold mining and the forestry industry.

Cariboo Pulp and Paper Company is managed by Brian Grantham, a young man whose firm belief that in the future, “there is room in the world marketplace for a strong healthy industry such as ours (pulp manufacturing), but we have to continually work at it.”

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It is this optimistic outlook that is the driving force that makes this pulp mill in Quesnel hum efficiently.

Cariboo Pulp and Paper Company officially opened its doors in November 1972 with a daily production of 675 AD tonnes of fully bleached northern softwood kraft pulp. Located in Quesnel, in a quiet valley surrounded by green mountains and lush forests, this picturesque community is driven by the forest industry. With a population of over 11,000, Quesnel is located at the junction of Cariboo Highway 97 and Bakerville Highway 26 in the Cariboo region of the British Columbia interior. Known as “the Gold Pan City”, the town has an abundance of water, forests, hydro-power and rich history. It is also home to the world’s largest gold pan, measuring 55 metres across and weighing nearly 1,400 kilos, a present-day reminder of the area’s links to the Great Cariboo Gold Rush of the late nineteenth century. Its prime location at the confluence of the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers made the city a major supply centre for the goldmines of the nearby Barkerville area. Throughout its history the community’s location has brought riches to the population and helped its growth and survival.

History

In 1808, Simon Fraser and his voyageurs travelled the Fraser River in search of the mouth of the Columbia River. Instead they discovered the mouth of what was an uncharted river at the time. Fraser sent his Lieutenant Jules Maurice Quesnel to further survey the area and subsequently named the river after him. The community of Quesnel was originally called Quesnellemouth to distinguish it from Quesnel Forks, located one hundred kilometres up river. In 1870 it was shortened to Quesnelle, and by the turn of the century it was spelled as we know it today. Prior to the discovery of gold in the Cariboo region, tribes of Carrier Indians inhabited the area, which consisted predominantly of rich forests and bush-covered hills.

In the early spring of 1861, William Dietz and Ned Stout were the first to discover gold in the area, on Williams Creek. This event opened the door to major expansion for the entire region. A year later, Baker and Company was established making the richest strike on the creek. It triggered the Cariboo gold rush and the boomtown of Bakerville, which at its peek was the largest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco. At the same time, Quesnel solidified its position as a stop-over town and supply depot for the miners in the gold fields. Unlike today, reaching the area was not easy with only Indian trails and the Cariboo Wagon Road available. The gold rush brought rapid expansion, and soon the appearance of steamships made it possible to transport supplies and gold seekers up the Fraser River. As more people recognized the profit to be made in the supply town of Quesnel, settlers chose to stay in the area. The solid foundations for the community were set and even after the gold rush when many other towns in the area were abandoned, Quesnel continued to grow as a supply centre. Fur trading, forestry, ranching, along with gold mining fuelled the economy in the early years. With the arrival of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway in 1921, hundreds of settlers took up homesteads and small farms in the surrounding area. The railway also played an important role in increasing the local farmers’ income by providing transportation and markets for their dairy products. On March 21, 1928 Quesnel became an incorporated municipality.

While it was gold that laid the foundations of the community, logging and the need for lumber had always been a part of the fabric of the area, going back to 1863 when the first sawmill was established. During World War II birch wood from Quesnel supplied to the Pacific Veneer Company of New Westminister was shipped to England for use in the manufacturing of the famous Mosquito bombers.

Today, the area’s economy continues to be inter-linked with the varied aspects of the forest industry, with two major pulp mills, five large sawmills, a plywood plant, an MDF plant, and several smaller value-added manufacturing operations calling Quesnel home. The city’s main industrial area, in which most of the mills operate, represents the most concentrated wood products manufacturing area in North America. Over 3,000 people are directly employed in the forest industry, producing a broad range of products from medium density fibreboard to lodgepole pine plank panelling.

Having grown up in the interior of British Columbia, Brian Grantham, mill manager at Cariboo felt as if he was coming home, when he first arrived at the Quesnel facility, six years ago. “I am a rural type of person, and to be able to apply my chemical engineering background to an industry that is located here was the ideal combination for me,” he said. “With my youngsters, Kassi (14) and Matthew (11), there is no end to the year-round activities that we can do here in Quesnel.” The great outdoors and a sense of community involvement are significant aspects of Grantham’s life here. He told me that one of his greatest joys was to see that over one third of the mill’s employees got involved in the British Columbia Winter Games that were held in the area two years ago. “Pride in the success of the mill and pride in one’s community are equally important to me,” he added. “I truly respect the genuineness with which he gets involved in his community,” said Keith Carter, maintenance and engineer manager.

Cariboo Mill

Cariboo Pulp and Paper Company employs approximately 400 people and has been in operation since 1972. Its product is a bleached softwood kraft pulp, and since its creation as a mill, has been jointly owned by Weldwood of Canada Limited and Daishowa-Marubeni International Limited. Grantham added, “Having joint owners allows a certain type of autonomy, but when it comes to serious matters, both companies have always been very progressive in their support of our mill operation.” Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd. (DMI), an integrated forest products company, was first established in Western Canada in 1969. It has become one of the top pulp producers in North America with operations at Cariboo in Alberta, and Peace River in Alberta. It conducts business with an additional 600 woodlands, log and chip haul contractors. The other partner, Weldwood of Canada Limited*, is a leading manufacturer of lumber, plywood, laminated veneer lumber, treated wood products, and of course northern bleached softwood kraft pulp, at eight wholly owned and four joint venture mills in British Columbia and Alberta. All of their operations are based in western Canada, where, as they claim, “some of the best wood in the world is grown and harvested.”

The pulp produced at Cariboo meets the stringent requirements of the marketplace for high brightness, cleanliness and strength. Noted for its superior length of fibres, Cariboo pulp is used in the manufacturing of a variety of paper products that include printing and writing paper, tissue and specialty grades.

This part of interior British Columbia is covered predominantly with lodegepole pine and white spruce. Douglas fir and alpine fir are also present in smaller quantities. The long slender lodgepole pine and white spruce fibres create a high tensile strength to the papermaking furnish and allow for a high degree of sheet smoothness. The mill purchases 100% of its chips from local wood manufactu
rers.

Of the 340,000 ADT per year production at Cariboo Pulp and Paper Company, Weldwood exports its 50% of pulp to markets in North America and Europe, while DMI ships to Japan and Southeast Asia. The Cariboo pulp travels world-wide. Regular freight service links Quesnel with Vancouver, 680 kilometres south and Prince George, 120 kilometres north and on to the deep-water all season port of Squamish, on Howe Sound.

Since arriving at CPP six years ago, 41 year-old Brian Grantham has gained a reputation for being a solid leader who people can count on. “He is focused and driven,” said power and recovery manager, David Hardman, adding, “Not only is he looking out for what is best for this facility now, but he looks at long term survival, I respect that.”

Grantham said, “as the industry is getting more and more competitive, we must always be ready for opportunities that present themselves. We have a strong team here and there is no obstacle that we cannot overcome.” A prime example is the success of the mill’s safety committee, which as part of an ongoing five-year plan of action has achieved goals that involve all levels of employees, from management to unionized workers. The winter 2003 issue of the Workplace Gazette published by the government of Canada cited CPP for its innovative workplace practices with its establishment of various internal committees that involve all levels of employees. “His positive approach and supportive manner when presented with a new idea is what Brian is all about,” said Bob Salmon, technical manager.

One senses that Brian Grantham’s days at the mill are busy, with new challenges that are never ending, but one also senses he would not have it any other way.

Your comments are welcomed at zsoltp@pulpandpapercanada.com

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* FOOTNOTE: International Paper announced in July 2004 that it has reached an agreement to sell the capital stock of its Weldwood of Canada Limited subsidiary to West Fraser Timber Company Limited. The transaction is subject to completion of due diligence and financing, as well as applicable regulatory approvals.


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