West Fraser mill rebuild moves closer

100 Mile Lumber gets initial construction underway

West Fraser 100 Mile Lumber’s new general manager, Sandor Buchi, said last week that the facility rebuild is on schedule for about a six-week total break at the sawmill.

“We anticipate that, between people’s holiday time and our rebuild, our trades and production folks will be quite busy over this summer. We are looking forward to a very busy year at the site.”

Already underway is some foundation work and the assembly of two new barkers, and a new stick system was recently installed at the sawmill stacker, he explained.

Buchi noted 100 Mile Lumber is still looking at being shut down for the last two weeks in June, and then for the month of August.

“We are making substantial changes with the rebuild, so we’ll be spending a good chunk of time working on getting the construction right so we can start up an efficient mill that’s matched to the anticipated fibre supply.”

Last November, 100 Mile Lumber’s former general manager Peter Andrews said that during the six weeks of closures, it will minimize impacts to employees by retaining most of its trades people and many production people to assist with the construction.

Many jobs are changing because the mill will have new equipment with different technology and operating procedures, he explained.

Andrews added some people will be laid off because certain jobs will be permanently eliminated, but other positions will be created as it moves from two to three shifts.

With more shifts and less people on each, the rebuilt mill will run 24-hours-a-day, five-days-a-week, instead of 16 hours a day, he said. Noting the overall production will not change much, he added the more efficient technology will consume less electricity while producing more pieces of lumber from each log processed.

Andrews explained new crack detection technology will scan logs, and a computer simulator will spin and align them in the best position for the saw, maximizing the number of lumber pieces.

This means logs from trees, such as those killed by pine beetles, with checks and splits running along the full length, will then produce good lumber, he said. Andrews added with the current equipment, one crack can wreck every board, which then ends up in the chipper.

He added this also significantly improves safety because broken boards cause jam-ups that must be manually cleared by crews.

Andrews said that because the new mill design will handle the wood much more efficiently, this will also help to extend the current timber supply.