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Meadow Lake Tribal Council Invests In Sawmill

Ivan Morin

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JUNE 1988      p04  
The Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) has taken a hands-on approach to solve some of its area's employment problems with the purchase of the Meadow Lake and Green Lake sawmills. The mills were purchased for $6 million through a new company, NorSask Forest Products Inc., which is jointly owned by the Meadow Lake District Chiefs Investment Co. Ltd., and Techfor, which is owned by the employees of the Meadow Lake Sawmill. To improve the worth of the Meadow Lake mill, NorSask will undertake a $3.2 million modernization of the mill in a three phase plan over three years. Nor Sask has also negotiated a Forest Management License Agreement with the provincial government which will guarantee wood users a long term supply. The Agreement will also give northern communities within the license boundaries first rights to harvesting, trucking and reforestation operations.

A roads and transportation agreement has also been signed between NorSask and the provincial government which provides for construction and maintenance of roads between northern communities and for access to forest operations.

The three phase modernization plan will see the installation of a new slasher complex to replace the existing one. The new equipment will be able to handle an increase in wood due to new harvesting of hardwood for the pulp mill and a planned chop stick plant. The slasher will also be able to sort out oversize wood (16 inches and over in diameter) which will be sent to Green Lake mill. Phase one of the plan will also include the purchase of a new debarker to replace one that was sent to the Green Lake mill. As well a new chipper will be installed to process hardwood. Phase one has been estimated to cost NorSask$2 million and should be complete by September 1989. It will provide 50 construction jobs for six months next year. Once the new equipment is installed, the mill should be able to hire an extra eight employees on a third shift. The mill is presently working on two shifts.

The second phase of the modernization plan will see the addition of a new shipper/canter line which will be able to utilize logs as small as three and one-half inches in diameter. This will allow for the production of 2x3's and 2x2's which are used for furniture, cupboards and many remanufactured products. These new ventures will provide more profit for the sawmill which now processes small logs into low revenue chips for the Prince Albert Pulp mill instead of using the small logs themselves. Phase two should begin in September of 1989 and be completed by March of 1990, at an estimated cost of $800,000.

The installation of a $1.4 million bin sorter is planned for phase three. The new computerized bin sorter sorts lumber into 32 different sizes and lengths for more efficient processing. Work on phase three is slated to start in the spring of 1990 and should create about thirty construction jobs.

A new 6,000 square foot office building is also planned for the mills' increased administration staff. When all the renovations are complete the mill is expected to be on three shifts, providing more jobs for Meadow Lake residents.

Plans also include upgrading the Green Lake mill to increase it's production level to 12 to 14 million board feet a year. A new debarker and chipper are being installed at a cost of $225,000 and should be in operation very soon. With this in place the Green Lake mill should provide work for two shifts for 10 months of the year, as opposed to the seasonal work being done now.

O'Neil Gladue, Vice-Chief of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council says that the "Meadow Lake Tribal Council holds the belief that the forests in the northwest will be better utilized and protected by those who live there, and through the purchase of the mill, the MLTC is doing their part." Gladue also says that northern communities, and traditional resource users, will have a significant role to play in forest management, and through NorSask Forest Products the northern communities will be given first rights to harvesting, trucking and restoration contracts to this end. He concluded that the MLTC is committed to a tong term vision of the forests and to proper forest management. With training programs, such as the National Indian Forestry Institute, the MLTC will ensure a continuing supply of highly skilled and dedicated foresters and forestry workers who are committed to proper management and development of the forests of northwest Saskatchewan.

It was also announced that a new multi-million dollar chopstick factory will be opened. The factory will create over 150 direct new jobs and 300 indirect jobs. Construction of the factory is expected to begin in August and the opening is slated for 1989. It will produce 1.56 billion pairs of chopsticks a year for shipment and sale to Japan.