By Andru McCracken

The headrig for big wood will help the valley’s newest mill at the Valemount Industrial Park turn a profit. It’s tough to get rid of large diameter wood, the headrig will break it down into manageable pieces that will be sawn into boards in other parts of the mill. Because they don’t fetch much on the open market, turning big wood into lumber should help the Valemount Community Forest turn a profit while creating local jobs. /ANDRU MCCRACKEN

It’s early days, but if you want to get on with the new mill under construction at the Valemount Industrial Park, you should put in an application now even though it’s not scheduled to start until fall.

The mastermind hired to build the mill is Alan Yaworsky, and he’s looking for people to sort out thousands of spare parts, seals, bearings, and couplers, and paint the mill. It’s a good way to get on long term, because Yaworsky wants every staff member to be able to pitch in when the mill has a breakdown.

Alan Yaworsky is the man hired to assemble the Valemount Community Forest’s mill, and he likes his mills plumb, level, square and shiny. He has his work cut out for him. Valemount’s newest mill will handle both large and small diameter logs when it is finished. /ANDRU MCCRACKEN

“I’m trying to get local people to start now with me and we teach them as we go,” he said. “This way when I leave I know that the town will be looked after with these people that I teach.”

Yaworsky said that the mill we be built in five stages, and when we spoke, they were about three quarters through the first phase, which includes the headrig designed for breaking down very big logs.

While it’s being constructed from an old mill, it sits level and square.

The design is new and reflects stringent new safety measures because sawdust has increasingly been shown to be flammable (think dry pine beetle kill and burnt logs). The typically messy parts of the operation such as handling of hog fuel and sawdust will be outside the building.

“I don’t want my mill to be contaminated with sawdust,” he said.

Yaworsky guesses he’s built 150 mills over his career.

“We built most of the mills in BC and Alberta. This is my chance to build my mill,” he said.

“I gotta revamp everything to make it work the way I want it.”

Yaworsky said morale is essential.

“The next couple of weeks I’m going to get some of the people who want to work here start painting. If you buy a new car all painted up nice you’re going to look after it. Morale is the number one thing in this industry,” he said. “If you have good morale, you get top safety.”

Yaworsky pays attention to the industry and he believes that many supermills set up around the province have ruined their own business case – by depleting the forests.

Alan Yaworsky and Samantha Piper share a laugh as the mill comes together. Morale is everything at a sawmill, according to Yaworsky and he seems to do a pretty good job keeping it high.

“West Fraser, Canfor gobble a million and a half board feet a shift, our timber is just going”¦ it takes 80 to 90 years for a full growth tree”¦ we don’t have any timber left.”

He believes more specialty mills like this one will begin popping up.

When it’s finished the mill will employ about eight people and handle oversized and undersized wood that must be logged but is hard to sell.

If you’re interested in working at the mill, now is the time to get your resume in to the Valemount Community Forest office.