After many delays, Brad Mapes, main proponent for Aurora Wood Pellets, said the project has taken a significant step forward, with more to follow in the coming months.
“Until the day we dig a hole in the ground, people will say it’s a flash in the pan,” he told The Hub last week. “But Hay River, and the South Slave, need this.”
Mapes went before Enterprise town council earlier this month to present an update on the project that will see wood harvested from around the South Slave and brought to a mill in Enterprise and transformed into pellets for heating to be sold in the North as well as in southern Canada. He also went to secure a piece of land near the highway on which to build that plant.
The area is bigger than he had originally anticipated, but he said that would allow for more development in the future.
Mapes hopes to have the land purchased by mid-July and to begin preparing the site right away for construction work next summer. Although this particular site has been in the plans for years, he said the project fell between the cracks after the newly-created Department of Lands.
“Sometimes it’s not bad that delays happen,” he said, citing the decision to buy a bigger piece of land and the time to cement plans as positive results.
The Commissioner’s land is in the process of being transferred from the GNWT to the Hamlet of Enterprise. Mapes had originally wanted 1.3 square kilometres of a section of land about four kilometres north of Enterprise, but still within the hamlet’s corporate limits. He is now asking for about 3.2 square kilometres.
Enterprise Coun. John Leskiw III expressed concern about the number of trucks bringing timber to the mill and the impact on highways, and Mapes agreed that with about 3,500 trucks coming from Fort Resolution each year and another 3,000 from Fort Providence, the roads would have to be improved.
“We need this here,” he said. “We need something. What drives me steady in this is the youth I have talked to who are looking for jobs so they can stay in the North, opportunities to work in their own communities.”
Mapes estimates the mill itself will employ between 50 and 100 people to start, with about 75 involved in the construction of the facility and site itself.
–Written by Sarah Ladik with files from Paul Bickford