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Sawing logs in Jean Marie

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Jean Marie River (July 22/05) - There's a buzz in the air in Jean Marie River and it's not gossip: it's the hum of a new saw mill unit.

The new $100,000 unit can cut 5,000-6,000 board feet in an eight-hour shift, according to mill manager Steve Herrett.

That's enough lumber to produce the raw materials for two average-size log homes, he noted.

The new mill was imported from Finland and can cut more in one hour than the community's old band-saw mill could cut a day, said Herrett.

Orders for lumber have already come in from residents in Fort Simpson. As well, the oil and gas industry wants to buy planking for projects in the Sahtu, he said.

The community still has its lathing mill, so it can proceed with log housing packages. Herrett said there is a market for those houses and cabins.

The First Nation acquired the mill through funding from Dehcho First Nations. A heated shelter for the sawmill should be erected later this summer, Herrett added.

Powered by an electric motor connected to a 150 kilowatt generator, the sawmill has several hydraulic parts and requires little handling of the logs. One person can operate it, but two to three workers will likely work a shift, Herrett said.

Gail Sanguez is one of five band members who began training three weeks ago and will continue for another month.

"Give it about three or four days and you get the hang of it, using the controls," said Sanguez, referring to several joystick-style levers.