Sometimes you can look at something every day and never know what goes on there.
But thanks to mill tours offered by Abitibi-Consolidated twice each weekday in the summer (except for statutory holidays), now you can find out.
The hour-long tours are offered free of charge to anyone interested in exploring exactly what a pulp and paper mill does.
“It was pretty much in layman’s language,” said George Boch of Winnipeg, whose interest was piqued by the sight of the mammoth mill from the highway.
“I saw this big mill so I figured I’d just check it out,” he said.
Lindsay Jewiss, who is back as the guide again this year, said the tours are very popular all summer.
“I have different people all the time,” she said, referring to the variety of visitors to the mill. “Just last week, I had people from Quebec, Chile, and of course, Fort Frances.”
The tour began with a video presentation that explained Abitibi’s work in the Fort Frances Woodlands (comprised of three million acres).
Then visitors are asked to strap on head and ear protection, a bright orange vest, and a walkie-talkie to be used for any questions. At this point, the tour moved into the kraft mill.
On the way to the mill, Jewiss described the different byproducts that result from production. Both turpentine and tall oil are produced and resold from the wood production.
Jewiss then led the tour beside a conveyer belt that moved trees to a de-barking machine and finally to a saw that cut the wood into small sections. These pieces then were sent to a grinding stone that pulverized the wood into a fine pulp.
The tour wrapped up with a quick look at the paper mill, where machines #5, #6, and #7 could be seen in action. The machines produce a high-gloss paper product that starts as a mixture of 99 percent water and one percent pulp stock.
The end result is a 72” roll of paper that weighs up 2,600-2,700 pounds.
Abitibi-Consolidated produces almost 900 tonnes of the paper per day and ships its product to more than 1,500 customers worldwide. The final product is used for high-gloss magazines, newspaper supplements, and books.
All in all, the tour is an informative look at a Fort Frances landmark. In the words of one visitor, Pamela Boch of Winnipeg, “it was just excellent.”