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Abitibi Paper Mill

We toured the Abitibi Paper Mill on Wednesday, 8 August 2001. We had planned to tour the very large Boise Cascade paper mill in International Falls, MN, but their tours were suspended until the following week because they were making changes to one of their paper production lines. The Boise Cascade tour guide happened along as I was inquiring about tours and suggested that if we hurried, we could make to afternoon tour of the Abitibi mill just across the border in Canada. We did hurry, and just made the 1:30 tour. Cameras and sandals are not permitted on the tour. However, they did allow pictures to be made as we dressed for the tour, and pictures from outside the plant could be made after the tour.

The tour starts with an introduction of everyone, and an explanation of what the tour shows. Hard hats and ear protectors are required. The ear protectors include a radio receiver that allows the tour guide to describe what is being seen, and to give instructions. Questions are asked by using the guides radio transmitter.
The hard hats and ear protectors are not the most beautiful objects, but they are very effective. The ear protectors essentially block all sound except from the radio receiver. Paper mills are very noisy places and hearing damage is likely if the ear protection is not worn.
Logs are brought into the mill at the west end building with large mechanical grabbers. Inside, they are first debarked and then ground into a thin slurry called pulp with lots of water. Most is bleached to produce white paper. The slurry is stored until needed. Additives such as clay may be added to produce a slick finish paper.
The slurry is piped from the storage tanks to the building that converts the slurry into paper. Most of this process cannot be seen since it occurs inside a closed machine. The process is that the slurry is spread in a thin layer on a wide conveyer belt, and then squeezed between a series of steel rollers and dried. Steam is used to heat and dry the slurry.

As paper mills go, this is a small mill, but it still requires a lot of space. There are three major buildings that occupy a space equal to about two city blocks. They have three production lines, with two operating during our tour. The Boise Cascade mill is reported as having seven production lines. The paper produced by each line is first gathered into rolls that are 12 feet wide and 5 feet in diameter. These large rolls are unrolled, cut to desired widths, and rolled again into whatever size roll is ordered for delivery. This cutting process was really the only part of the tour that could be easily seen, but we just missed it since they had just finished and were carting the rolls of finished paper off to shipping.

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