Countdown to Donnybrook mill

DONNYBROOK has moved a step closer to being home to a new $12 million, one million tonne plantation timber mill.

The news follows the release this week of a public environmental review by proponents WA Plantation Resources Pty Ltd.

The company is a subsidiary of Marubeni Corporation, one of Japan’s largest “sogo shosha”, or general trading companies, which has been pushing ahead with its dreams for a mill since it purchased WA Plantation Resources from Wesfarmers in September 2000.

The woodchip mill will rival the mill already operating in Albany and controlled by Oji Paper and Itochu Corporation.

The woodchip mill will have the capacity to process up to one million tonnes of woodchips a year, generating about $100 million in export revenue each year from a site six kilometres south of Donnybrook.

It also will create as many as 120 jobs both in the mill and in transport and forest harvesting, while the company also has committed to invest a further $40 million in harvesting equipment.

The State Government has been a firm backer of the project and sees it as an opportunity to reverse some of the damage caused by its stance to stop the logging of old-growth forests.

“We have always believed our long-term vision for the industry will ultimately create more jobs than are initially lost,” Forestry Minister Kim Chance said following the original announcement in May 2001.

“This project is one of several in the pipeline that can make that vision a reality.”

Environment Minister John Edwards reiterated Mr Chance’s statements.

“This initiative is the first of a number of anticipated projects involving the expansion of the plantation timber industry,” Dr Edwards said.

“With this, obviously, come new job opportunities and the Government is committed to helping timber workers make the transition to these jobs by providing targeted training assistance.”

The local community has not shared this enthusiasm, however.

A community action group has been formed in a bid to stop the project, which potentially will operate 24 hours a day. Three trains a day will be loaded, destined for the Bunbury Port, while truck movements going to the mill could be between 77 and 100 a day. This would account for up to 60 per cent of total truck movements along the Boyup Brook Road and 30 per cent of trucks travelling south along the South West Highway.

WA Plantation Resources general manager Ian Telfer expressed disappointment when the company was called on to provide the Environmental Review.

“We do not believe the project warrants a PER level of assessment as the mill will not create any significant impacts on the environment,” Mr Telfar said earlier this month.

In the latter part of last year, WA Plantation Resources sold a number of its plantation land holdings in the South West for more than $8 million, but maintains control of 32,000 hectares through its tree farm leases with private landowners.

Marubeni controls about 600 subsidiaries in 80 countries and generated sales of $74 billion in 2001.

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