Land for pellet mill to be cleared

NNSL file photo In May, Brad Mapes, the majority owner of Aurora Wood Pellets Ltd., pointed out features of the land where he will be building a wood pellet mill in Enterprise.

NNSL file photo
In May, Brad Mapes, the majority owner of Aurora Wood Pellets Ltd., pointed out features of the land where he will be building a wood pellet mill in Enterprise.

The economic benefits have begun from a proposed wood pellet mill in Enterprise.

Aurora Wood Pellets Ltd. has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to contractors to harvest timber off the proposed 3.2-square-kilometre site of the mill.

The deadline for submissions is Sept. 26 and the contract is expected to be awarded no later than Oct. 1.

Brad Mapes, the president and CEO of Aurora Wood Pellets Ltd., said the contract will be the first economic spinoff from the project.

Mapes, a well-known businessperson and also the mayor of Hay River, has been working on the project for six years and has invested personally into the concept.

“So I’m committed,” he said. “I’m from Hay River. I want to make sure that this project is definitely something that’s going to benefit our community, along with all the communities in the region. It’s going to be something that’s going to make a difference.”

Mapes is also looking forward to what will be a very visible sign that the project is beginning.

“I’m tired of talking about it,” he said. “Once people see that the area is starting to clear, then they’ll see that something’s happened.”

Mapes said the entire site will be cleared of trees.

Most people don’t realize how big of a piece of land that is, he added. “It’s going to be a huge area there, and people will get a better idea of the area of it.”

The land is currently about 80 per cent covered by trees.

Mapes said it will probably take six to eight weeks to remove the trees.

The harvesting will be done by equipment, and the timber will be kept on site to use in the mill once it is completed.

“The RFP is for someone to harvest it and lay it down on our site so we can utilize if for further use,” said Mapes, adding that if it is covered properly, the harvested wood can be kept for five years.

“But my plan is that within the next 18 months we’ll be in production,” he said. “There’s still a lot of work that’s got to be done. Once the timber is all harvested, then I’ll approach the Enterprise hamlet to get a development permit which we’ll take and start developing the land this winter and clearing it so that we can get the site preparation ready. And then for next year we’ll start working on the plant.”

The land purchase from the Hamlet of Enterprise was finalized in May.

The site is on the east side of Highway 1, about 3.5 km north of where the railway crosses the highway in Enterprise.

The mill is expected to produce at least 150,000 cubic metres of pellets each year, but that could increase depending on supply.

A 150,000-cubic-metre production would mean about 45 to 50 jobs at the site and probably 55 truck drivers, plus spinoff jobs.

Harvesting will be controlled by groups from communities including Fort Resolution and Fort Providence.

–Paul Bickford