San Group has decided to build its new sawmill at its Coulson Mill site outside of town, after members of the public complained about potential noise. The company had announced in December 2018 that it would build a new mill on a piece of land purchased beside Catalyst Paper, at the corner of Stamp Avenue and Roger Street.
The change in the sawmill’s location was a socially conscious decision, said San Group CEO Kamal Sanghera.
“We are very conscious of the potential disturbance the sawmill would have on our neighbours,” Sanghera said. “As an active corporate community partner, it is our obligation to ensure that we take into account the concerns of our fellow citizens.”
Construction on the new sawmill began last week, with the arrival of the first of 25 trucks full of new equipment. Contractors from Bowerman Excavating were surveying the site last Wednesday, and the foundation was expected to be laid before Easter weekend, Sanghera said.
Moving construction of the new mill to their Coulson site means San Group has had to step up the second phase of their expansion: construction of a new remanufacturing plant. Instead of waiting until the new sawmill was built, San Group will construct the remanufacturing plant at the same time, on the Catalyst Paper site.
“We’re going to move very fast,” Sanghera said.
They will also be investing “hundreds of millions of dollars” into their lumber business in Port Alberni, with the intent of creating products that can be used here in Canada instead of shipping lumber out of the country.
The company will re-submit plans to the City of Port Alberni for their Stamp Avenue site; the remanufacturing plant will be 100,000 square feet and include five dry kilns and other new, high-tech machinery. The noise will be contained inside the plant, Sanghera said. “Dry kilns don’t make any noise. The planer always has noise control on top of that.
“Everything is inside the building.”
The Sangheras expect the sawmill will be up and running manually in three months, and fully automated by October or November. The remanufacturing plant will begin operation as soon as construction is finished.
“In four to five months, the reman plant will be running too,” Sanghera said.
San Group is not anticipating any job losses as a result of automation.
Kamal Sanghera estimates 30–35 people will be employed to build both the sawmill and remanufacturing plant; once the sawmill is built, an additional 30–35 jobs will be created, with the potential for more.
“From there we will grow,” he said.
Although construction is expected to start soon on the Stamp Avenue site, vice-president of corporate affairs AJ Cheema said the site will be available for Thunder in the Valley drag racing in August if the Alberni Valley Drag Racing Association needs it.