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Sabie Sawmill: Feasible or not?

Michele du Plessis

A Request for Proposal (RFP) was published on March 12th, 2017, for the appointment of a professional service provider to conduct a feasibility study for Sabie Sawmill. The closing date is April 13th, 2018.

SAFCOL is a state-owned forestry company and was established in 1992 following the promulgation of the Management of State Forest Act 128 of 1992. Hans Merensky’s Tweefontein Sawmill in Sabie closed in about 2010, which used to be a customer of SAFCOL (KLF). “The sawmill has been stripped and all the equipment auctioned. However, the buildings and infrastructure remain on site, including a housing village. The land belongs to the municipality, and apparently it is to be returned to the municipality as they have not found a buyer for the site,” the information in the proposal stated.

The Business Case identified the following various potential opportunities within the timber value chain including light industry, research, training, forestry services, business incubation etc. Mpumalanga Provincial Government has approached SAFCOL to participate in the Techno Park, both as an anchor tenant, and in the project management of the project.

As part of its agreement with its Shareholder, SAFCOL was to implement a Sabie Complex for timber processing. Although the Sabie Complex was originally envisioned as the joint venture with another party and did not proceed, SAFCOL wishes to perform a feasibility study for a sawmill in the Sabie area. This sawmill could also provide downstream timber value-adding opportunities at the Sabie Techno Park planned by the Mpumalanga Provincial Government (MPG) as well as SAFCOL’s planned timber-frame structure manufacturing plant.

The following indicates the specifications for the pole plant: The sawmill should ideally be based in Sabie (at the Techno Park or other suitable locations); the study should indicate the optimal sawmill capacity, considering the availability of raw material from KLF’s plantations, best practice in the industry and capacity of equipment to optimise value.

Sawmill specifications include the processing of pine softwood saw logs; preferably processing smaller-diameter logs and/or pruned logs for which there is a limited market in the area;

The primary market for the products is structural lumber, but other products could be produced which could be further beneficiated at the Techno Park, such as timber-frame structures, furniture, pallets, doors and windows. Kiln-drying capacity to be included and value-adding activities to be specified such as planing and finger-jointing.

The feasibility study must be conducted considering the various options for the location of the sawmill, such as the old Hans Merensky – Tweefontein Timber Company sawmill in Sabie

Once the feasibility study has been submitted and approved by SAFCOL, a detailed implementation plan must be developed including the detailed sawmill design and specifications which can immediately be issued to market to procure the turn-key services for the mill construction such as earthworks, civil, mechanical and electrical, processing equipment, boilers and kilns and value-adding services.

The deliverables will be in two phases, namely the feasibility study and the detailed sawmill design and implementation plan to assist SAFCOL to commit resources and timelines to the project.

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