Sustainability shapes mill investment

Precious Wood’s construction of a new heavy duty tropical timber mill in Gabon and the feasibility study that preceded it underlines its policy to make most sustainable use of the forest resource.

The company’s Gabonese subsidiary CEB manages 600,000 ha of jointly FSC and PEFC-certified forest concession in the country. It harvests areas on a 25-year cycle, and works zones within designated management regions for five years. A detailed inventory of the latest zone to be harvested, near the town of Okondja, found it to be particularly rich in azobé. A feasibility study followed to assess the volumes of timber, comprising principally the azobé, but also other heavy hardwoods found in the area, that could be extracted sustainably, with only trees over 90cm in diameter felled. From this, Precious Woods decided to go ahead with the new plant on CEB’s Bambidie mill site. “From the technical viewpoint, the new mill can handle other species as well, but for the time being it will mostly process azobé due to the high supply from this area,” said Precious Woods’ forest industries technical consultant Markus Pfannkuch.

In another aspect of the project, the company has formed a partnership with Netherlands based importer, processor and tropical timber construction specialist Wijma. It will take all the timber from new plant, process it and market it Europe-wide. The Dutch business said it was attracted to work with Precious Woods’ by its record on sustainable management. It also advised the latter on the construction of the new mill. The plant has capacity to process 17,000m3, with all output jointly FSC and PEFC-certified, and employs 87 people working two shifts. It also forms part of wider development of the Bambidie site, which includes upgrading kilning and storage and construction of new housing for the additional workforce.

Precious Wood’s also highlights that the ultra-durable timber from the new mill is a renewable, low carbon alternative to concrete and steel in ‘high quality, long lasting applications’. So it will be as sustainable in use as in production.

For the full report on the new mill: