Pellet mill talks business with overseas industry giant

photo courtesy of Brad Mapes Kye Han Lee, left, Brad Mapes, and Suk Lee take a tour out on the ice of the bay on a break from negotiations in Yellowknife last week. Lee and Lee represent the South Korean Hyosung Corporation which is considering purchasing a large amount of wood pellets produced from NWT-based Aurora Wood Pellets.

photo courtesy of Brad Mapes
Kye Han Lee, left, Brad Mapes, and Suk Lee take a tour out on the ice of the bay on a break from negotiations in Yellowknife last week. Lee and Lee represent the South Korean Hyosung Corporation which is considering purchasing a large amount of wood pellets produced from NWT-based Aurora Wood Pellets.

After several days of meetings in Yellowknife last week, Aurora Wood Pellets may be one step closer to breaking ground this summer, according to Brad Mapes, the company’s main proponent.

“The NWT wants to be able to export something sustainable,” he told The Hub. “This is a way we could make a pretty big impact, and also develop a market that will not only be sustainable, but will also grow.”

Mapes said the South Korean Hyosung Corp., one of the largest industrial conglomerates in the country, has come forward as a potential buyer of wood pellets from the proposed pellet mill, set to be located in Enterprise. Hyosung is one of a few Korean companies seeking to supply their government with biomass fuel as their power plants gradually shift over from coal to sustainable sources of energy.

Mapes said discussions with the company revealed that last year, the South Korean government imported 1.2 million cubic tonnes of biomass fuel and he hopes wood pellet production in the South Slave will be able to contribute to that demand in the future.

“We feel we could be a provider,” he said, going on to explain that mills in the south can’t sign long-term supply contracts because of their own input issues.
While Aurora Wood Pellets would see trees harvested specifically for the purpose of making fuel, southern mills are largely dependent on remnants from sawmills.

“Anybody can sell an industrial-grade pellet,” said Mapes. “What we’re selling is a premium pellet that will give better results, and at the same time, developing a brand new industry that’s renewable and sustainable in the North.”

Mapes said the harvesting communities, including Fort Resolution which signed its agreement last month as well as Fort Providence which has yet to sign, have been discussing the potential of the forestry industry for years but needed a large guaranteed buyer to make it viable. In the same way, he explained that Aurora Wood Pellets would benefit from a contract to purchase large amounts of product to ensure a steady demand.

“That will mean steady growth of the industry here in the South Slave,” he said. “The ripple effect will give the economic boost to get the South Slave back on its feet and that means more opportunities for jobs for students when they finish their studies.”

Wally Schumann, president of the Hay River Metis Government Council, said the pellet mill would be “the best thing to happen to this place” that he could recall.

“We’re not relying on a mine or on shareholders. This is about us,” he said. “It’s going to improve the economic and social well-being of all South Slave communities.”
Mapes said if negotiations continue to go well, the project will break ground at the site in Enterprise this summer.

“This feels like something that will actually happen,” he said. “It’s going to be really good for our South Slave
communities.”

-Sarah Ladik