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Woodchip plant coming closer

WOODCHIP producer WA Plantation Resources is cautiously confident that its three-year struggle to build a new woodchip plant in the south west will finally pass regulatory hurdles.

The company is planning to invest up to $10 million building a 500,000 tonnes per annum woodchip plant at the port of Bunbury.

The current proposal is about half the size of the ‘greenfields’ plant the company had previously been seeking to build at Donnybrook.

The Donnybook proposal became mired in protracted environmental controversy, forcing the company to seek an alternative location.

General manager woodchip operations Ian Telfer said the plant would be built on port land already leased by WA Plantation Resources, which is jointly owned by Japan’s Marubeni Corporation and Nippon Paper.

“We came to the realisation that trying to get a large greenfields project up in the south west was very difficult and we would be battling wherever we located it,” he said.

The company has instead opted for a smaller plant within an existing industrial area.

The proposed plant will be located close to the woodchip plant being built by Korean group Hansol PI.

Hansol is investing $12 million in its 500,000 tonnes per annum plant, which is due for completion next month.

Mr Telfer said WA Plantation Resources would invest between $8 million and $10 million on its new plant and associated receival and port facilities.

The Environmental Protection Authority advised early this month that the proposal did not require any further assessment.

A two-week public appeal period finished on January 27 and Mr Telfer said he was “reasonably confident” the project would be able to proceed.

He characterised the latest plan as complementing WA Plantation Resources’ existing operations.

These include its Manjimup woodchip mill, which will continue to process about 250,000 tonnes a year of native forest timber and plantation timber.

The company will also continue to purchase about 250,000 tonnes per annum of woodchips from Brooks Transport’s Dardanup mill “in the medium term”.

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