Partial operations resume at mill

by Sabine Gibbins

Although electricity has finally been restored at Meadow Lake Mechanical Pulp Inc., mill operations are still not fully up-and-running following the recent blackout experienced throughout the region.

According to Simon Imray, general manager at the mill, SaskPower originally informed him power to the mill would be restored by July 14. That date was later changed to July 20. Both dates proved to be incorrect, however, as power was restored July 12 at 9 p.m.

Electricity was restored throughout the community 17 hours after the initial June 26 blackout, but Imray said the mill operations had to remain shut down until 230 kV power was restored.

While operations are now once again underway, mill officials have indicated the plant is not yet producing at its full capacity.

Meanwhile, the long-awaited new crane at the mill site has been installed and is ready for operation.

Nearby at Meadow Lake OSB Ltd., maintenance manager Glen Rodrigue said there has been a full production stop at his facility since the power outage hit.

“We were unable to run the mill without the necessary power,” he said. “Currently, we are working on our inventory and in our warehouse doing maintenance jobs.”

He remarked it is very seldom a serious power outage arises and causes such a lengthy disruption in productivity for the mill.

“We were scrambling initially,” he commented. “It caught everyone off guard.”

The mill produces oriented strand board (OSB) for areas of use such as wood housing and light commercial, industrial, concrete forming and furniture manufacturing.

The mill, which is part of Tolko Industries, produces an annual capacity of 700 million square feet of OSB. The mill is located on a sprawling 220 acre plant site about 29 kilometres southeast of Meadow Lake.

The fibre supply is underutilized, sustainable wood species.

The OSB Mill began production in 2003, said Iris Crouch, controller.

“The jobs we are able to do, from a production perspective, due to the power outage, include mainly housekeeping and maintenance tasks,” she said. “We have had to scale back considerably.”

Most employees are working on those tasks.

SaskPower has informed the OSB mill power should be fully restored on July 18, but even then it will take some time before the plant operations are fully up and running, Rodrigue said.

“We’d like to recognize the efforts of SaskPower,” he said.

SaskPower continues to provide the mill with regular updates.

“They realize it’s something that is out of our control,” Rodrigue added. “When you look inside the mill, it’s all dark and very quiet. Quite a change. But our employees have been providing invaluable amounts of work during this time.”

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