Nanaimo mill lands in global spotlight making medical-grade pulp

Harmac Pacific is winning attention for the medical-grade pulp it produces for a U.S. customer and is assessing interest from potential new customers.

Company president Levi Sampson would not provide further details on Monday, but said that once the current double-order of its K10s pulp is filled, Harmac will continue to produce it in case it is needed.

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“We are going to run to meet that demand [from the current customer],” he said. “We are also going to run past that — put some more in a warehouse so if demand picks up again we are able to meet that.”

The Nanaimo mill has been highlighted since U.S. President Trump invoked measures to have U.S. medical supply producers boost production, with the United States getting priority access.

Major producer 3M said last week that the White House told it to stop sending its products into Canada and Latin America. The White House has denied that.

Harmac is not producing pulp for 3M, said Sampson, who is not revealing the name of the company’s long-standing customer.

Sampson said that Harmac views the current crisis not a Canadian or an American problem, but rather as a global problem.

“I’m extremely proud of our men and women that are going into work every day. They have a sense of pride and duty in what they are doing right now.”

“People should be proud that there is a company on the Island right now that is producing a product that eventually makes its way to the front lines we so will keep doing that as long as we possibly can.”

Harmac’s K10s pulp goes to the U.S. where it is manufactured into medical equipment such as close-fitting medical masks and gowns, he said. It is not used in the production of N95 masks, which is in heavy demand around the globe.

Sampson is not aware of any Canadian manufacturer who would make use of the K10s pulp, which has gone through rigorous testing for medical supplies.

A portion of the equipment made using K10s pulp returns to Canada, he said. “It is my understanding that is still the case — that some of those medical supplies are making their way back to Canada. So that is an enormous sense of pride for us as a company.”

Harmac, with 320 employees, turns out five kinds of pulp, with some going to produce toilet paper and tissues. K10s is made from Western red cedar to create a soft product for the medical market.

Depending on demand, the ratio of the various types pulp produced can be adjusted, Sampson said.

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