Saturday, 8 November 2014


In place of earlier link that didn't work.

Written by L.M. (Buzz) Lein February 25, 1974

Thirty-eight years ago (1936) a bleached kraft mill took shape and substance on the northwest shore of Nipigon Bay on Lake Superior. Closed down by financial problems before it could get rolling in 1938, it just sat there until the Brompton Pulp and Paper Company acquired the property in 1942, and started to turn out kraft paper on a converted newsprint machine some two years later.

During the early 1950's, the St. Lawrence Corporation became the operating company and so remained for about ten years.

In 1961, St. Lawrence Corporation merged with Dominion Tar & Chemical and Domtar Limited began its career on the north shore of Lake Superior.

From its start-up early in 1944 and through 1951, statistics are (un)fortunately scarce, but during this period the mill was producing about 250 tons of brown paper per day, six days a week. All the wood required was delivered in log form, nearly all by water during spring and summer. Some 130,000 cords of softwood were consumed yearly. The softwood was about 70% spruce and 30% jackpine.

During 1952 - 53, there was a milestone expansion. A new kraft paper machine was installed and the old one put back into newsprint service. In addition, facilities were added that would permit, for the first time, the use of poplar to make a pulp.

1953 also saw the arrival of the first consignment of wood chips. These were purchased from Great Lakes Lumber & Shipping in Thunder Bay and amounted to about 4,800 tons for the year. 1953 was the year for another first - 6 cords of poplar purchased from John Dampier of Nipigon and water delivered to the mill at Red Rock.

When the new kraft machine went into action in 1954 and with the newsprint machine running, production of paper jumped from 87,000 tons to 153,000 tons in 1955.  The big increase was in newsprint where from start-up production of 11,000 tons in 1954 it ballooned to 50,000 tons in 1955.  The delivery of wood to Red Rock followed the paper production pattern, From 115,000 cords in 1954, the jump was to 163,000 cords in 1955.

By this time the paper production pattern and wood delivery program was wet.  Over the following six years, not much change was evident. Kraft paper production was about 100,000 tons a year, newsprint 56,000 tons while into this was going about 224,000 cords a year of spruce, balsam, jackpine and poplar.  Spruce and balsam still made up 70% of the material with jackpine forming nearly all of the rest. The percent of poplar was quite small in relation.

In 1962, Domtar's mill began operating on a seven-day week and is still doing this in 1974. This immediately created more jobs, provided increased security for a paper based economy and increased yearly production by about 18,000 tons of paper. By year end 1963, annual paper production was now 195,000 tons per year.

More was to come. In 1964, the capacity of the sulphate mill was increased and major changes were made in the paper machines.  Production of paper was up again by 15,000 tons to 210,000 tons yearly.

Why sawmills and paper mills need each other

A change is noticed in the type of material from which the paper was being made. From a timid beginning with 4,800 tons of chips in 1954, ten years later in 1964, the tonnage of chips had worked its way up to 80,000 tons.  At this period, softwood chips were sawmill residue and it is to Domtar's credit that their people were willing and able to pioneer a process then regarded as daring in wood fibre use. The beneficial economic affect on the distant saw mill producers of chips may well have been incalculable because chips were their cash crop at a time when cash was scarce.

A major mill improvement program was again announced in 1969. This time, the emphasis was on pollution abatement with many in-plant improvements.

1969 saw the hesitant beginning of a new process to use another type of sawmill residue in the making of pulp. 133 oven dry tons of sawdust were purchased. This was in addition to the 165,000 tons of chips, 197,000  O.D.T. of limit wood and 7,800 O.D.T. of poplar chips that were used to produce 253,000 tons of paper.

By 1970, with the construction program on the go, millions were spent on a primary effluent treatment plant, revised wood handling facilities to eliminate the river drive of pulpwood to the mill, and to set up facilities to utilize some 100,000 tons of sawdust per year.

The effect of the 1970-72 improvements were best evident by the production for the year 1973 when kraft paper production was up to 210,000 tons; newsprint to 68,000 tons for a total of 278,000, the most paper Domtar's mill at Red Rock has ever produced.

And, to do this, it required 146,000 O.D.T. of roundwood ( 8 foot logs from Domtar limits), 195,000 O.D.T. of chips from out-lying sawmills, 94,000 O.D.T. of sawdust from far away sawmills, and 21,500 O.D.T. of poplar chips from two area plywood mills.

What stability of community looked like.

In the manufacture of paper, one does not progress by maintaining the status quo.  Already plans are being made for increased production that will go along with more efficient use of available fibre, mill operations that will be in harmony with the environment and processes that will foster the stability that has been in the area ever since that first mill started up on the shores of Nipigon Bay some thirty odd years ago.

Today we do not have stability

(2012 the mill sits dormant., gutted by salvage, but Red Rock still has hope.)

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