San Group owners Suki, left, and Kamal Sanghera and general manager Bruce Molander oversee operations at San’s new mill in Port Alberni, San Group Specialty Mill. The company purchased the shuttered Chalwood Forest Products operation on Hector Road. (April 24, 2020) (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

San Group buys specialty sawmill in Port Alberni

Forestry company continues work on Island expansion plans

San Group has purchased another mill in Port Alberni.

The Surrey-based forestry group bought the former Chalwood Forest Products mill on Hector Road a month ago, and is already operating while they clean up the site.

Chalwood used to cut yellow cedar exclusively for the Japanese temple market, and was able to cut 20–40-foot long timbers. The Chalwood mill had been shut down for more than a year, owner Kamal Sanghera said. San Group was still able to hire back “most” of the employees laid off when the mill shut down.

There are 15 workers operating the mill right now, and when it is up to full capacity Sanghera says another 15 will be hired for a total staff of 30. Bruce Molander is the general manager overseeing the new San Forest Specialty mill on Hector Road.

READ: San Group’s remanufacturing plant takes shape in Port Alberni

Acquisition of the new mill means San Group can literally take a tree from harvest to home, says Sanghera. Kamal and his brother Suki were at the new mill site on Friday, April 24 to watch the first official load of specialty-cut lumber leave the site.

San Group has a mill at the former Coulson Sawmill site—which they purchased a few years ago—that can handle large logs. They are building a second mill for smaller diameter logs at the Coulson site, and now San Forest Specialty will be able to handle longer logs and lower grade wood. They will also be able to use more of the fibre, which will help once the remanufacturing plant at San’s third site, on Stamp Avenue, is complete.

“This was the component that was missing,” Kamal Sanghera said.

“This is not high production, but you do specialty work here; how to get more value out of the same tree. This will help us use unutilized fibre.”

The scragg mill at the new site allows them to turn even the lowest quality log into short pieces of lumber and even chips to supply Paper Excellence Canada, the former Catalyst Paper mill.

“We can do everything in house. It will give us the flexibility to take specialty orders from our customer base around the globe,” without shipping raw logs elsewhere, he said.

The Sangheras plan on upgrading the machinery at San Forest Specialty so they will be able to cut red cedar, fir, Sitka spruce and hemlock. “We’re taking it one step further than what they were doing here.”

There is also room to expand on the property at San Forest Specialty, and since it is in a rural area, surrounded by a natural berm, noise abatement is not an issue, Kamal Sanghera added.

In the meantime, work continues at both the Coulson Sawmill site, where the second mill is still under construction, and the remanufacturing site at the corner of Stamp Avenue and Roger Street.

The second mill is a month behind, but the first test fire should happen at the end of May. Restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic have put progress at the reman plant behind, Sanghera said. Landscaping of the perimeter of San’s property began on Friday and construction continues at the site.

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San Group owners Suki, left, and Kamal Sanghera and general manager Bruce Molander oversee operations at San’s new mill in Port Alberni, San Group Specialty Mill. The company purchased the shuttered Chalwood Forest Products operation on Hector Road. (April 24, 2020) (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Darren van Dyk loads the first official truck of lumber produced at San Group Specialty Mill on Friday, April 24, 2020, west of Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News) Darren van Dyk loads the first official truck of lumber produced at San Group Specialty Mill on Friday, April 24, 2020, west of Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Darren van Dyk loads the first official truck of lumber produced at San Group Specialty Mill on Friday, April 24, 2020, west of Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

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