By Joey Krackle
Biigtigong Nishnaabeg — The community’s thriving forestry company, Mkwa Timber has launched a new forestry enterprise to supply timber to local mills in Terrace Bay and White River.
The deal could see the company supply 200,000 cubic metres of fibre annually to the Terrace Bay mill.
Mkwa Timber will take forestry to a new level of efficiency with the company investing in a new acquisition — a high-tech harvester called a processor and forwarder.
Byron LeClair, President of Mkwa Timber says the First Nation’s own resources created the venture. “Our investment into the company with our own resources to purchase the equipment the Ponsse Scorpion King Harvester creates more opportunities.”
Mikwa Timber has hired eight community members who have been training to operate the state of the art equipment since the New Year.
The Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, formerly known as the Ojibways of Pic River First Nation, has 30 years experience developing the forestry industry.
For the past two years the company has evaluated equipment supply options, negotiated access to timber and sale contracts with mills, while investing heavily in training its members.
Byron LeClair, President of Mkwa Timber, says the Finnish based manufacturer Ponsse was successful in the community with their proposal including training, ongoing support and a willingness to work with the first nation throughout the launch.
“Most people said if you’re going to harvest, you need a feller buncher, grapple skidder, slasher, and delimber, but with the Ponsee processor and forwarder, we’ve reduced the amount of equipment needed to harvest, the number of operators required to operate the equipment, as well as reduced the amount of fuel required to operate the equipment. Our operation is more efficient, safer for the employees, and will reduce our environmental footprint.”
Harvesting began on February 8, 2016 with first loads of wood expected to reach Terrace Bay in early March.
Chief Duncan Michano voiced his strong support for this venture further into forestry.
“We are very pleased that our success in energy projects is supporting the creation of other opportunities like Mkwa Timber.”
Chief Michano talks of plans for future growth. “This is just our first step back into forestry, our plans include a commercial fire wood operation, a small sawmill and a residential wood pellet plant.”
LeClair says Mkwa Timber has the goal of getting established as the low cost harvester of fiber in Northern Ontario.
The Chief of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation says he is committed to being self-reliant and strategically develop employment, education and resources to be used within the community.