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Demo contractor shreds paper mill in Saskatchewan

Peter Kenter
Demo contractor shreds paper mill in Saskatchewan

When paper markets falter there’s still the possibility of producing and selling pulp. Demolition and environmental contractor JMX Contracting Inc. of Gormley, Ont. has recently contracted with Paper Excellence Canada Holdings Corp. to demolish the paper making buildings at its pulp and paper mill in Prince Albert, Sask.

The pulp and paper mill opened in 1968 and was a major local employer until plant owner Weyerhaeuser shut it down in 2006. Sold to Domtar that same year, the facility was purchased by Paper Excellence of the Netherlands in 2011. The new owners announced plans to produce dissolving pulp used to make fibres and textiles such as rayon. However, duties imposed on the product by China forced a switch in plans to producing fluff pulp used primarily in incontinence products.

There’s no firm announced opening date on the re-opening of the pulp plant —Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne said in January that it could take as many as eight years for production to resume.

In the interim, JMX was contracted to remove several unused structures, primarily buildings formerly devoted to paper making. These include the paper mill, the sheeter warehouse, the folio building, the paper mill additives building, a fuel storage tank, the precipitated calcium carbonate plant, the old wood room (a new one has already been built to support pulp production), the forestlands office, the effluent foam tower and the wood yard portal cranes.

"The most impressive thing about this demolition project is the massive area covered by the buildings," says JMX co-owner Jeff Norton.

"We’re taking down buildings covering an area in excess of 500,000 square feet."

When demolition work began in March, much of the paper making equipment had already been removed from the buildings — Paper Excellence had signed a non-compete clause with Domtar as a condition of sale. However, Norton says that his company’s salvage efforts included identifying the remaining secondary paper making equipment for removal and sale to other paper production companies. Even so, some of the remaining equipment slated for metal salvage is massive. Norton estimates that some units weigh as much as 15 tonnes.

JMX has devoted a 10-person team to the project, a mix of regular employees and local workers. The company has shipped in six 50-tonne high-reach excavators with shears and grapples to support the effort.

"These are single-storey facilities, but many of the buildings were built extremely tall to handle the former production lines and machinery," says Norton.

"Some of these buildings stand 120 feet tall, so the high-reach excavators are definitely an asset."

The buildings are largely steel frame on concrete bases with metal siding. The demolition strategy involves first concentrating on collecting non-ferrous scrap, such as zinc and aluminum. Steel and concrete will form the next phase.

"Prince Albert is located about an hour-and-a-half north of Saskatoon, so scrap markets aren’t exactly local, but we’re committed to taking all of this material to the most appropriate market once it has been collected and assessed," says Norton.

Work on the project is expected to conclude in October, before winter sets in.

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