Equipment & Systems
NORAMPAC Red Rock Division proudly looks to the future with a co-operative town spirit that ensures success.
By Pulp & Paper Canada
Communities are traditionally evaluated by variables such as population density and geographic location. In this month's column we travel to Red Rock, Ontario, to discover a proud community of just ov...
By Pulp & Paper Canada
Communities are traditionally evaluated by variables such as population density and geographic location. In this month’s column we travel to Red Rock, Ontario, to discover a proud community of just over 1200 people, whose spirit is the driving force of its very existence. Basically a one-industry town, its ties to the forestry and paper industries define Red Rock’s character. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, the people who live and work in Red Rock applaud their community, one that has a relatively short, but exciting history. In the 1930s the town site was literally carved from the forests at the edge of Lake Nipigon, and the natural resources were utilized to create the community. The spirit of inter-dependence among the population that was created then is still alive today.
The township of Red Rock is located at the end of Highway 628, one hundred kilometres east of Thunder Bay, and eight kilometres south of the Trans Canada Highway. It is nestled between the high rugged cliffs of the Red Rock Hills to the north and west, and the blues waters of Nipigon Bay to the south and east. All who live there unanimously agree that one would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful setting for a town anywhere. Beth Wills, technical services superintendent at the Red Rock mill said, “I come from a forestry family. I have always appreciated the natural resources, the people, and, especially, the spirit of this place.”
“There is nothing like it,” added mill manager Lorne Morrow. “Once a year I load up my canoe and head into the bush to rejuvenate and I cannot imagine doing this anywhere else. I am happily here to stay in Red Rock!”
The name Red Rock reflects its surroundings, having been named for the large red cuesta located on the roadway to the neighbouring community of Nipigon. The term “cuesta” is defined as, “long sloping hills ending abruptly in steep cliffs”. The north shore region of Lake Superior, home to Red Rock, can best be described as a combination of rugged terrain, abundant forests, and sparkling rivers and streams. It is here that, in the early 1900s, a quiet rural community of widely-scattered farms took hold. The settlers, who were mostly of Finnish background, derived their income from the land, raising hay and root crops, and cutting timber that was sold for firewood. In the 1920s, construction of the Nipigon Highway opened up the isolated community. The scene was set for the paper industry’s arrival. In 1936, the Lake Sulphite Pulp Company (LSPC) purchased land that included the present-day town for the construction of a paper mill. Local historians have noted that the original site preparation entailed literally clearing the land tree by tree. It is this very spirit of commitment and survival that can still be felt among the population of Red Rock even today. From the bad times, and there have been a few, including a major downsizing at the mill in 1992, a spirit of co-operation and resilience has emerged with a strong willingness to bound together and face new challenges. David Goulet, the pulp mill/chip yard assistant superintendent said, “(at the mill), we are a tight group of managers who work well together and we are always looking towards the future, to ensure that we are prepared for the challenges that the industry throws our way.” On August 6, 2002, there was a structural fire in the power boiler house at the mill, which at the time Norampac estimated caused damages of $1.5 million. It was the Red Rock and Nipigon Volunteer Fire Departments that put out the fire, and it was the town that rallied to help clean up. “By the time the executives from Montreal arrived on the following day, we were almost ready to start full operation again,” proudly recalled Morrow.
Initially establishing the paper industry in Red Rock had its hurdles, as LSPC went into receivership before the mill started operating, representing one of the first challenges that the small population had to confront. At the outbreak of World War II, the Canadian government purchased the land, having a need for an isolated area to establish a prisoners of war camp. The year was 1940, and the 48 abandoned bunkhouses that had previously housed construction workers at LSPC became home to1145 German prisoners. This historical occurrence is analogous to events at the Espanola Mill, which was profiled in the March 2003 issue of Pulp & Paper Canada.
With the end of the war in 1945, mill operations started with a respectable 200 tonnes per day. The boom years of the fifties went hand in hand with prosperity and progress for Red Rock. The year 1954 was pivotal for both the town and the paper industry as what was then the largest kraft machine in North America was installed at the mill. The original PM1 was converted to newsprint and a new product division was created. Morrow said, “This machine represents my favourite place in the mill operation, not just because of its long history, and the many transformations that it has gone through, but because of the guys who operate it. They are truly a dedicated group, proud of the machine and of the product that they put out.”
In 1997, Norampac was created, as a joint-venture company owned by Cascades and Domtar. Known as “The Box People,” this title is more than appropriate, given that the firm is the largest containerboard producer in Canada and the seventh largest in North America. In total, Norampac operates eight linerboard and corrugating medium mills and 26 plants in Canada, the United States and France. The firm boasts of its reputation for efficiency and turnaround time to service its clients. Its annual production capacity is more than 1.6 million short tonnes. Respect for environmental resources and a social conscience are fundamental values on a corporate level, and one can easily see the impact at Red Rock. ISO certified since the summer of 1999, quality improvements throughout the mill include improved fibre screening and cleaning, new moisture profile scanners and pocket ventilation on both machines, improved table, vacuum and VID on #2 machine, and installation of a new roll handling system. Environmentally, new secondary treatment of water has been running since 1996 and new bio-solids beds were established in 1999. A TRS emission project was completed in 2000 and the mill has been PCB free since June, 1997. “I am truly proud of the great strides that we have made environmentally at the mill,” said Lorne Morrow. He readily admitted he would like to have a spotless mill, and jokingly added, “it is not as clean as I would like it.”
As mill manager, Morrow, age 50, has been the working at the mill since the spring of 1994, originally as a shift coordinator. With a strong background in the forestry industry, he has been with Domtar in the Red Rock region since 1981.Ironically, as he explained, “In 1992, I was the one who shut down the woodland operations, phasing myself out of a job.” Last year he was awarded the Tree of Life Award by the Canadian Institute of Forestry, which recognizes individuals who have made superior and dedicated contributions to the forestry industry. “It is his vast knowledge of the woodland industry and the people who work in it, that makes him a special asset to our mill,” said Jim Fould, president of the five unions at the Red River Division mill. “With him, every worker knows their goals and what is expected of them, and, as a result, we collectively meet the budget and get the product out. And, I have to add, that his door is always open.”
Meeting new challenges is the norm at the mill. The increasing value of the Canadian dollar has cut Norampac’s profit by 20% over the last year, fibre costs have increased due to a relative scarcity of raw materials locally, and energy costs have also increased significantly. Insiders tell me that Morrow is a visionary, always planning strategies for the future. It is this quality that instils confidence and adds to the community’s spirit of confidence. So whether he is out cross country skiing or canoeing, two of his favourite pastimes, you can be cert
ain that in the back of his mind he is laying out plans, and carving out possible solutions for the future.
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THE FIBRE SUPPLY
Norampac is one of the largest users of sawdust and shavings in Canada, and is equally unique in the amount of sawdust and shavings it uses for brown linerboard furnish.
* All sawmill residuals and secondary fibre
— 50% softwood chips
— 30% sawdust and shavings
— 20% secondary fibre
MILL OPERATION STATISTICS
— 730 T/day heavyweight linerboard on PM2
— 380 T/day lightweight linerboard & bag on PM1 Grades
— Heavyweight liners: 170 OPL’s to 337 gram
— Lightweight liners: 115 gram to 170 gram
— Bag: 81 gram to 130 gram
— laminated kraft
— 85% rail from new rail handling facility
— 15% truck