Skookumchuk Pulp Mill Celebrates 50-Year Milestone

The Paper Excellence Pulp Mill in Skookumchuck is one of the largest industrial operations in the East Kootenay.

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Group of people planting a tree in the ground.

As part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations for the Skookumchuck Pulp Mill, two commemorative trees were planted in front of the mill office. — Photo courtesy Paper Excellence

One of the largest industrial operations in the East Kootenay, the Paper Excellence Pulp Mill at Skookumchuk, celebrated its 50th Anniversary on Wednesday, August 30, 2018.

Hundreds of past employees, current workers, union officials, local government representatives, pulp mill management and Paper Excellence executives came together to celebrate the milestone. Several of the former employees in attendance dated back to when the pulp mill first opened in 1968.

Richmond-based Paper Excellence CEO, Brian Baarda said, “It’s very exciting to be part of the 50th Anniversary of this mill and it is a credit to the people in this area – the union, the employees and the community.  Innovation and continual improvement has enabled this mill to survive.”

He added, “People operate the mill and they are critical to our success. Paper Excellence has five pulp mills in Canada, employs 2,300 people and produces 2.5 million tonnes of pulp a year.”

As part the celebrations a new sign for the pulp mill entrance was revealed and two commemorative trees were planted in front of the mill office.

"The way the pulp mill has grown and the support we've had from our employees has really made this company successful,” said Gavin Baxter, General Manager, a 29 year veteran at the mill. “The companies that have owned it over the years, and now with Paper Excellence, the investment they've done to keep it up to shape, keep it meeting environmental laws, and increase production has been really excellent."

PPWC Local 15 Union, First VP Jeremy Christensen said, “Although not every day has been easy, the mill would never have been able to last this long without the cooperation between the two sides…I was raised on PPWC dollars and I am super proud to represent these workers.”

The Paper Excellence Pulp Mill at Skookumchuk is one of largest employers in the region with 285 full-time workers plus numerous local wood fibre suppliers and maintenance contractors are contracted throughout the year. Paper Excellence estimates that the Skookumchuk mill brings as much as $44 million in direct and indirect economic benefits to the region every year.

"So many people that live in the riding are actually employed here," says Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok, "So when you come here and you see an event like this and you see people that have got the tenure of three weeks to over 30 years I think is incredibly important."

Kootenay-East MLA Tom Shypitka added it is hard to live anywhere in the region and not know someone that works or has worked at the mill. He credits innovation throughout the years to allow the company to thrive for so long.

General Manager Gavin Baxter says he’s confident the pulp mill can operate another 50 years with the same level of dedication from all levels of their workforce and management.

A 50-year anniversary is a big accomplishment no matter how you slice it, especially for something as cyclical and challenging as a pulp mill. Even after reaching such a monumental milestone, don’t expect Skookumchuck to hang up the hard hat anytime soon. “I’d love to see this place around for another 50 years,” said Gavin Baxter.  

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