Pulp and Paper Canada

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Out of the woods


November 1, 2006
By Pulp & Paper Canada

Anya Orzechowska

It’s been a disastrous fortnight for sawmills, with barely time to draw breath between the multiple announcements of shutdowns and closures that were generated by Weyerhaeuser, Tembec, Kruger, Cascade…

It’s been a disastrous fortnight for sawmills, with barely time to draw breath between the multiple announcements of shutdowns and closures that were generated by Weyerhaeuser, Tembec, Kruger, Cascades, Abitibi-Consolidated and Domtar. These forestry giants cited various combinations of the current circumstances, including weak demand, softwood lumber prices, the rise in value of the Canadian dollar, higher timber costs and rising energy costs for the shutdowns. Some of these closures have been labelled as indefinite shutdowns, others are temporary with a fixed, albeit fluctuating, date of reopening.

Most of the mills on the list are in Quebec.

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According to Hubert Bolduc, vice president of communications and public affairs for Cascades, one of the main problems is the cost of raw material.

“In Ontario, it costs $6 per cubic metre to cut wood on Crown Land,” Bolduc said. “In Quebec, it costs $17. That’s almost three times as much. We feel, and it’s not only Cascades, that an effort on behalf of the government needs to be made.”

Over 2200 people were affected just within this time period and it’s not over yet.

Economic Development Minister Raymond Bachand said that the Quebec government foresees that the crisis rocking the forestry industry will last another 18-24 months, leading to further sawmill closings and job losses. Quebec Natural Resources Minister Pierre Corbeil has been quoted as saying that there are too many sawmills in Quebec and the problem has to be fixed. It would seem that his definition of “fix” might correspond with the current closures.

A more optimistic note was sounded by Premier Jean Charest who said that he believed the industry was going to survive “the worst crisis in the history of this sector in Quebec.” However, although he pointed out the province has already poured $1 billion worth of aid into the industry during the last two years, he also admitted that nobody saw the depth of the market cycle when the current budget was being planned in March.

In 2003, Jean Charest blamed the former Parti Quebecois government for mismanaging the forests so badly “it’s unclear how long the timber industry can remain sustainable,” according to a CBC News report.

But we will wait to see what difference Premier Charest’s aid package to the forestry industry will make.

One important article has been doubled up in this issue. While the technical paper on progressive system closure was already scheduled for publication in November, we decided that a more informal article would complement the information for our readers. For the question and answer version, please see page 12.

This month we also focus on the importance of training, in two separate articles. The first (Rolling back the clock: is the time right to revisit simulation?) covers the returning popularity of PC-based simulation as a practical technology for training operators of the future (see page 15). In The Future Faces of the Industry, Assistant Editor Heather Lynch covers some of the people who are deeply involved in pulp and paper as well as the different educational paths that lead to a career in the industry (see page 19).

Can we pinpoint where most of the work gets done for the magazine? Not really. Even were all the files and information within access at both home and office, I still think that nothing would match the contact with people who spark the writing process and/or give ideas on editorial content. Conferences and symposiums, press tours and trade shows are all great places to collect information.

Why am I focussing on this subject? Autumn is usually a fairly quiet time — in terms of trips outside the office — giving us the time we need to update the Annual PPC Directory and the Mill Map. This year, however, the calendar seems to be full of travel plans. Besides several association conferences, there are a few supplier seminars which also help to keep us up-to-date on the latest in available technology.

One-on-one meetings as well as industry conferences are invaluable. Recently I attended the Emerson Global Users Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, which sent me home with a number of interesting ideas for articles to explore. No, not just on one suppliers’ product, although it was interesting to hear about the recent developments in the field of wireless instrumentation (more in the next issue) but also the conference contained many presentations by independent speakers on a wide range of subjects. Over the course of the next several months, I hope to include some of these within the pages of PPC, including articles on saving money, increasing equipment efficiency and designing safety.

In the meantime, I’ll be picking up my e-mails and trying to answer from wherever I happen to be.

anyao@pulpandpapercanada.com


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