THUNDER BAY – Encouraging news is starting to filter out of Northwestern Ontario regarding some new and exciting forest product ventures. Any news these days would be welcome and finally we are seeing signs that these new ventures are close to becoming a reality, and in forestry –related businesses.
The Greenstone area is one area that has been in the news recently with an increase in mining activities, and now news out of Longlac shows that new partnerships have developed that see both First Nations and business groups working together to create new sustainable employment, both on and off reserves, in value added forest products.
Two new businesses are planning to start –up as early as this fall. If that’s not good news I don’t know what is!
Longlac has always played an important role in forestry and forest products and this looks to continue. Buchanan’s sawmill is expected to be up and running in September in conjunction with the re-start of their Terrace Bay facility. This is all good news for residents in both forest product and woodlands jobs.
The change in Longlac is the creation of Making Ground Forest Products (MGFP) which consists of a partnership between Ginoogaming First Nation’s Rocky Shore Development Corporation and Boreal Resource Industries Inc. MGFP is actually developing two ventures; one on Ginoogaming property and the other on the former Kruger site now owned by Kenogami Industries Inc; of which MGFP owns two-thirds.
MGFP is finalizing arrangements to start a Post/Pole/ Rail Tie and Mining Supply venture on Ginoogaming First Nation land, and MGFP President Adolph Rasevych is ecstatic with the potential that is now within reach through this new partnership. “Finally we can see hope through the start of these two ventures, one of which is to be located on Ginoogaming land and this will kick-start our new Industrial Park, Rasevych commented.
“The venture on the Ginoogaming property is the result of a search for a non-housing start dependant forest product line. Combining these products with our Mining Timbers and other mining wood products places us in a good position for the future Ring of Fire mining explosion about to take off”, Rasevych added.
Vice President of MGFP is Andre Blanchard, and he explained the other business venture being undertaken by this new partnership. “We are getting into value-added products, by finishing and assembling complete units such as closet organizers, shelving units, and utility cupboards totally produced and assembled right here in Longlac. That is exciting” Blanchard added. He explained that once this initial product line is in place, they will then add panel overlay and finishing to their catalogue which will include pre-finished engineered flooring. The Longlac group is also in-queue for a 25 Megawatt Biomass Co Gen from the OPA, which will utilize wood waste from their product processing.
“These are our carefully planned baby steps that will result in the re-opening of the wafer board and plywood facilities. We are growing the market and there is much interest in us providing finished panels for customers. We are changing from an 80/20% commodity product line to an 80/20% value added offering. That difference alone will make us successful”.
“The partnership is what is making these changes happen for us”, replied Rasevych when asked what the most noticeable change is for their First Nation members. Partners, Andre and Adolph both agreed, “Everything we have accomplished to date is due solely to our relation building”.
MGFP expects to be producing approximately 15 different products this fall through a combination of log, lumber and panel conversions.
Down in Red Rock, investors are waiting for word on their wood supply allocations request from province on the under-utilized wood competition. The Red Rock facility is patiently waiting for this wood supply notification so they can start their 40 Megawatt Biomass Co Gen and Plywood ventures. The Red Rock Biomass Co-Gen is one of only a handful of Biomass ventures that will convert under-utilized fibre species into electrical power sold to the Ontario Power Authority.
At Lake Helen on the Red Rock First Nation near Nipigon, plans are underway for a Sawmill and Pellet operation, and like the Longlac, Red Rock and Atikokan Biomass venture, everyone is waiting to confirm wood supply. This is expected to be released possibly in September. Ignace is also on the verge of a new forest product line related to energy.
So things are happening, on a vastly different scale but they are progressing. These new partnerships and ventures are following the model of value added products and utilizing previously undesired wood species. The model works because wood waste generated from their products will be used to feed the Co-Gen boilers.
The expected fall start-up of these new ventures is fast approaching and like everyone I have my fingers crossed wishing these new businesses success. I will provide an update later as to their progress.