PG Bison opens R1.3bn board factory

21 April 2008

South African timber products manufacturer and distributor PG Bison has officially opened its R1.3-billion board plant outside Ugie in the northeastern pine forest plantations of the Eastern Cape province.

Work on the facility started after PG Bison’s parent company, JSE-listed Steinhoff, purchased a 67% stake in North East Cape Forests from Mondi, with production starting in December and being ramped up steadily since then.

In a December statement released after the first board was pressed at the plant, PG Bison added that the board plant, which covered some 36 hectares of a 64-hectare site, was designed to accommodate possible future timber beneficiation processes.

PG Bison said that the 1 000m³ per day particle board plant was a pivotal development in the forestry cluster, intending to extract maximum value from the raw material by utilising the entire tree in an integrated operation.

Further value will be added to the raw board through a 35 000m² melamine faced board press which was successfully commissioned in October last year.

“When the Ugie board plant reaches full production, we will almost double our capacity, creating exciting new opportunities to establish PG Bison as the preeminent particle board producer in South Africa,” said PG Bison CEO Chris van Niekerk.

Developing local economy, skills

PG Bison said that it had gathered a team of production specialists from its other plants around the country and had spent several months training locally recruited employees.

“Many of the new production staff spent a considerable amount of time receiving on the job training at facilities elsewhere in the country,” the company said. “Key personnel were sent abroad to learn the specifics of operating the continuous press – the largest and most modern press of its kind in Africa.”

Preparations in the surrounding North Eastern Cape Forests to supply the board plant with 1 300 tonnes of timber per day were also on track with mechanised harvesting operations and road networks having been established, while the Forest Stewardship Council certified timber for the plant will come from PG Bison’s own 33 000-hectare plantations.

“Some 78% of the total project costs is being spent locally, with the balance going to key components manufactured abroad,” PG Bison pointed out

The forestry cluster development is a significant economic injection for the north Eastern Cape, creating an estimated 2 700 direct jobs with an initial annual salary bill of R90-million.

“The development offers numerous opportunities for local entrepreneurs to provide supporting services. In addition, the number of secondary jobs created by this initiative is likely to be significant,” PG Bison said.

SAinfo reporter

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