Officials from Kruger Kamloops pulp mill appeared before city council on Tuesday, asking elected officials to help press the province for access to non-traditional fibre which will help sustain mill operations.
Tom Hoffman, fibre manager for Kruger Kamloops Pulp, told council the pulp mill directly employs 340 people directly, with about 1,000 indirect jobs tied to its operations.
Hoffman said the mill currently has about 17 days worth of chips, and typically they would expect to see 30 days.
“Our supply is not in jeopardy, but we’re concerned,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman, who was joined by Darrel Booker, the mill's general manager, requested that council stay in regular communication with mill officials, and asked mayor and councillors to discuss the matter with provincial elected officials.
"However the council sees fit — whether that's a letter to the minister, to the premier, just interfacing at UBCM — all of those aforementioned opportunities, we would welcome those, and would be more than happy to share ongoing communication with council,” Hoffman said.
The past few months have been a particularly turbulent time for B.C.’s forest industry, with a number of recent sawmill and pulp mill closures impacting the livelihoods of hundreds of people.
Hoffman said the mill, which produces specialty pulp used for products like fibre cement, tissue towels and electrical paper, has had to explore alternative access to pulp logs and other sources of fibre.
“Some of the things that we've been doing is improve utilization from the major operations. We’ve talked to Interfor, Tolko, West Fraser and Weyerhaeuser about accessing the stuff that historically would have piled and burned, and they've been for the most part quite cooperative,” Hoffman said.
He said the mill has also explored using fire-affected fibre from stands that have been burned — particularly in the last five years.
“We're exploring opportunities to utilize that fibre and as you can appreciate, to convert a fibre that's burnt into a pure white product is a bit of a challenge. So we had to do some innovation inside the mill as well,” he said.
He said the mill is also working other partners, including First Nations, to help increase access to new sources of fibre.
Booker said originally when the pulp mill was built, it relied entirely on residual chips from sawmills.
“As we sit here today, we don’t get that. We’re lucky if we get 70 per cent, 65 per cent of our chips are coming from sawmills,” Booker said.
“We got less all the time when there's a sawmill that’s shutdown or impacted. So like Tom said, we have to go and get non-traditional.”
Provided its fibre supply can be secured, the representatives said there is an “aggressive” five-year plan in place for the pulp mill, including equipment upgrades.
"We do have projects on the books to even expand the mill a little bit, but certainly to get more environmentally friendly,” Booker said.
He said the mill is undergoing engineering studies on a $20 million diffuser project.
“We're going to be looking for a little bit of funding on that at some point because it does have a huge benefit to the mill and to the environment,” he said.
Coun. Katie Neustaeter put forward a motion that council provide a letter of support which will go to the province, requesting support for access to untraditional fibre sources.
The motion was carried unanimously.