Pulp and Paper Canada

Mackenzie pulp mill back in business

September 1, 2010  By Pulp & Paper Canada

It was a busy summer for everyone involved with the Mackenzie pulp mill. Paper Excellence inked the deal for the shuttered operation in April, and had the first pulp rolling off the line on August 4. …

It was a busy summer for everyone involved with the Mackenzie pulp mill. Paper Excellence inked the deal for the shuttered operation in April, and had the first pulp rolling off the line on August 4. The Mackenzie team pulled off a 12-week restart plan, bringing the mill back from a two-year shutdown.

“We had a 20-week start-up schedule planned, but we were offered the opportunity to do it in a 12-week time frame, so we did,” says general manager Doug van Buskirk. “We peaked at 200 contractors.”


Paper Excellence celebrated the official re-opening of the mill in Mackenzie, B.C. on Aug. 17. More than 220 work-ers have been brought back to work to support the re-opening of the mill and an estimated 500 spin-off jobs will be created.

Strategically located in the “fibre bas-ket” of the B.C. interior, the Mackenzie mill has a total capacity of more than 235,000 tonnes per year of northern bleached softwood kraft (NBSK). The unique characteristics of the fibre resources within the region make Mackenzie pulp bright, clean and strong. The Mackenzie MK pulp, made from wood chips and sawdust, is one of the highest strength NBSK pulps in the world. This type of pulp is primarily used in the production of lightweight and ultra-light-weight coated paper grades and high-quality tissue.

Pulp destined for export markets

The foundation for Mackenzie’s recovery rests on Paper Excellence’s connections in Asia. Says Peter Wardhana, president of Netherlands-based Paper Excellence: “We have a good fibre source for the long term and long term, loyal customers in Asia.” In fact, 80% of Mackenzie’s output is destined for Asia — some to customers within the Sinar Mas group, and some to external customers.

Wardhana explains that Sinar Mas and Paper Excellence have common Asian investors.

Also, a new agreement with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union has enabled the mill to open with significant cost reductions.

The mill’s fibre is being supplied by local sawmills, supplemented by whole log chipping. At the moment, says van Buskirk, residual fibre from the sawmills is more costly than whole log chipping.

“The mill hasn’t been in this good shape in years,” says van Buskirk. “There’s new piping, new infrastructure, new valving, upgraded control systems.”

There are still a few production hiccups. Wardhana expects it will take several months to smooth everything out.

Looking ahead, van Buskirk says he’ll look for opportunities to improve productivity and reduce costs, and the company will consider producing excess energy to sell to B.C. Hydro.

Growth through acquisition

Paper Excellence’s presence in Canada began in 2007, with the purchase of the Meadow Lake pulp mill in Manitoba. “It’s been one of our most successful investments,” says Wardhana. “We’ve moved quite rapidly in the last 12 to 18 months,” he notes, referring to the purchase of the Mackenzie mill, two pulp mills in France purchased from Tembec, and now the pending deal for the Howe Sound Pulp & Paper integrated newsprint mill in Port Mellon, B.C.

“We still see other opportunities in Canada.”

The Mackenzie mill was first opened in 1972, and was significantly modernized in 1996 with the addition of short fibre softwood digesting capabilities. It was closed in 2008 when its owner, Pope & Talbot, declared bankruptcy. The operation was later purchased by Worthington Properties, but was never re-opened. The B.C. government stepped in during the winter of 2009 to preserve the assets when Worthington ceased performing the necessary upkeep of the idled facility.



“I would like to thank Paper Excellence for their valuable investment in the community of Mackenzie, the Omineca region and the province of British Columbia. I also want to thank Minister Pat Bell, the McLeod Lake Indian Band, the entire community and all partners for working together to ensure working families in this region have an opportunity to build a future right here in Northern British Columbia.”

— B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell

“Our land is full of precious resources, so we are willing to endorse companies that have the expertise, commitment and willingness to work with us to manage our resources in an environmentally sound manner. I look forward to working with Mackenzie Pulp Mill and exploring other opportunities that will benefit the McLeod Lake Indian Band, local communities and the province.”

— Chief Derek Orr of the McLeod Lake Indian Band.

“This is good news for the residents of Mackenzie. Not only are 220 people back at work but the amount of spin-off jobs is twice as much. There is definitely a renewed sense of pride in our community. ”

— Mayor Stephanie Killam of Mackenzie, B.C.

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