Monday marked the grand opening of the Duz Cho Forest Products Sawmill in Mackenzie.
The Company owned by the McLeod Lake Indian Band is providing 28 new jobs for people to work at the mill, with the majority filled by First Nations and women. It took equipment transported from across the country to build, but the mill is finally a reality says Chief of the McLeod Lake Indian Band, Derek Orr. “Over the next 10 years, there’s supposed to be close to 460 billion dollars spent in the region and we want to be a part of that,” he said.
Orr says millions of cubic metres of Mountain Pine Beetle Wood stand dead in the band’s region and the new mill is turning those materials into ‘green gold.’ “We’re using that wood, that piece, it’s usually the top of the tree to come into our mill and to mill it into 80mm by 80mm variations and 13 feet long chunks.”
Most sawmills are housed indoors to protect equipment, but this one is connected to the outside of the building to ensure there is no dust build-up to prevent explosions and keep workers safe. The products from the Duz Cho mill are loaded into shipping containers and trucked to Prince George where the wood is then transferred onto trains bound for the Port of Prince Rupert. From there, products go worldwide to China, Saudi Arabia, and North America.
Orr says the wood never see the light of day. “It’s all stuffed in containers inside so it’s not contaminated, we actually have a dip tank for when we ship it overseas, dip it so it doesn’t mold on the way over.”
It may be a new mill, but Minister of Forests, Steve Thomson, says it creates a big economic impact. “We’re working hard across the province to find new relationships and economic agreements with First Nations to help build their capacity in the forest industry,” said Thomson. “The forest sector is very important to them and this is just one example.”