BY CHRONICLE STAFF
Finland-based pulp producer Botnia, the largest foreign investor in
Thanks to the new pulp mill, Botnia will be able to boost its production by one million tons and provide a full range of pulp, says Marko Janhunen, a vice president at the Finnish company. "Full production [in Uruguay] will mean an important increase in our annual production capacity which currently is 2.7 million tons," he says. "We will also be the only player in the market that can provide our customers with the whole scale of pulp products from Northern long-fiber pulp to Southern hemisphere short-fiber pulp."
Next year, Botnia will be the only company in the world that can offer its customers a wide portfolio of products made of both Northern long fiber and eucalyptus raw material, he adds. Spain-based Ence and Swedish-Finnish Stora Enso are also building pulp mills in
The opening comes as Argentine protesters continue their blockades despite a ruling last year from a Mercosur tribunal that they are illegal.
"In spite of this ruling,
The new terminal is located at the
Norwegian/Japanese-owned Gearbulk is the only shipping line so far that will be using the new terminal, which started construction in March last year.
Most of the pulp from Botnia - around 70 percent - will be shipped to Europe, while the rest will go to
The pulp from the mill in Fray Bentos, which only has storage capacity for one day's production, will be sent with barges 70 kilometers downstream to the new terminal. The port has 20,000 m3 covered warehouse space, able to store 100,000 tons of pulp, according to Botnia.
The pulp mill itself is set to open sometime this month. "It depends on successfully finalizing the testing period which is under way at the moment," Janhunen says. "Starting a pulp mill is a process that takes a couple of days."
The mill currently employs some 4,700 people. Botnia's source is its Uruguayan subsidiary Forestal Oriental S.A., which owns around 160,000 hectares of land, 60 per cent of which is under cultivation or is suitable for cultivation.
The Argentine protesters - with support from the Argentine government - are claiming that the new mill is unsafe. Their latest example is an accident that happened at the mill last month. Two workers were harmed when heavy winds blew sodium sulphide (see Botnia's Statement on the Accident).
"We have continuously highlighted the importance of safety at the site," Janhunen says. "We have undertaken numerous campaigns in order to make sure that safety measures and regulations are in place and implemented. All workers who do not comply with safety regulations will be sanctioned. We have a big team of safety supervisors whose only responsibility is to supervise that safety measures are being followed."
Botnia's safety statistics in Fray Bentos shows that its track record - accidents per million working hours - can be compared with any construction project in
Shortly before the new terminal at Nueva Palmira opened,
It is unclear why the Argentine Foreign Ministry refers to the Botnia mill as "illegal" despite its legal status in
Dr. Wayne Dwernychuk, a widely-respected contamination expert who advised the World Bank's IFC on the Botnia mill, says there is a link between the Kirchner government and the protesters. The proof is the recent offer by
"By their recent position of offering this truce, it is evident the government of
Jorge Balseiro Savio, director of the Uruguay-based Science and Research Institute (ICI), supports Dwernychuk and also blasts
An overwhelming majority - 80 percent - of Uruguayans support the new Botnia mill, according to polls in both December and June last year by Interconsult and El Observador, respectively.