Saturday, 19 September 2015


Buzz Lien’s  DOMTAR BUYS SMOKE!  February 5, 1974

When a company injects a million dollars into the cash flow of an area, it should not go unnoticed. When the same company provides the transportation companies with nearly two million dollars, the bells should ring out, flags should unfurl and rockets should streak across the commercial sky.

Domtar Woodlands Limited, of Red Rock, Ontario, have done these things. And, they have done it with style, class, imagination and plain, ordinary sawmill residues of sawdust and shavings.

Once upon a time, sawdust and shavings were a source of real annoyance to sawmill owners.  Small sawmills in woodsy locations had mountains of it around the place.  Larger sawmills at rail sidings spent all kinds of money just burning the stuff top get rid of it, while at the same time polluting the atmosphere and infuriating local housewives when the fly-ash product  of combustion settled out on the clothes that were drying on the line.

Before this, long, long before this, sawmills dumped this stuff in streams and lakes where it drifted downstream out of the way, not doing the fish or wildlife any good.  But, this was before it was discovered that wild life could be obliterated much more efficiently with DDT and other pesticides.

In 1969, Domtar Woodlands purchased the great and noble sum of 133 oven-dry tons of sawdust to see what the paper mill could do with it.

In 1970, the purchases for the year zoomed up to 1,000 tons, still nothing to get excited about.

But, in 1971, after a lot of hard head-scratching by a lot of people, some break-throughs were evident as the mill used 30,000 tons of residue.  Hearst and Thunder Bay supplied most of it.  In 1972, after more successful head-scratching and break-throughs, 90,000 tons of what used to be turned into smoke became a useful  product when it was turned into pulp.

1973 was a banner year.  Things went much better because 94,000 tons of sawdust went in one end of the mill as wood fibre and came out the other as part of a saleable product.

City dwellers, and indeed people who live and work in forested areas, do not really realize that the day of easy availability of virgin fibre has passed away.  It is of great importance that our natural resources (fibre) are used to the very best advantage. There can be no better illustration of this than the use of sawdust and shavings in the manufacture of pulp.

And, when the one million dollars that was spent to acquire the material is spread across Northern Ontario, it has a definite plus affect on an economy that is still too narrowly based on the production of wood fibre.  The nearly two million dollars that were spent to get one million dollars worth of material into Red Rock should spread a warm, pecuniary glow among the people who in railway cars and trucks brought it in.

The course of true love never runs smoothly and Domtar’s affairs with sawdust and shavings does have its bumpy moments.  But, these bumpy moments are becoming less bumpy and the relationship cozier and cozier as experience and techniques combine to turn the affairs into a prosaic domestic relationship.

There doesn’t seem to be any reason why the bulk of the technical problems that beset a new and novel process cannot be solved before the end of 1974.

We are betting Domtar can do it!

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