President Ramaphosa opens Sappi Saiccor mill expansion and environmental upgrade project – increased foreign earnings for South Africa
- Largest expansion and environmental upgrade project in over 80 years undertaken by Sappi in South Africa
- Significant contribution to Sappi’s decarbonisation commitments
- Additional R1 billion per annum direct contribution to the KZN economy
- Strengthens South Africa’s role as key global supplier of Lyocell, the fibre of the future for sustainable textiles
A mammoth expansion and environmental upgrade project at the Sappi Saiccor mill was officially opened by the President of South Africa, His Excellency Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, today in Umkomaas, KwaZulu-Natal. The R7.7billion project answered President Ramaphosa’s call for investment into the South African economy and was first officially announced at the Presidential Investment Conference in 2018.
President Ramaphosa was joined in the ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony by a delegation of representatives, including Mr Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Trade & Industry and Competition, Ms Nomusa Dube-Ncube, Premier, of KwaZulu-Natal and Mr Siboniso Duma, MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs. They were joined by Global Board Chairman of Sappi Limited, Sir Nigel Rudd, Mr Steve Binnie, CEO of Sappi Limited and Mr Alex Thiel CEO of Sappi Southern Africa.
Commenting on the investment, Sir Nigel Rudd said “The board believes that the South African forestry industry is globally competitive and can make further substantial contributions to the South African economy. This investment reflects our confidence in our South African operations.”
Explaining the reason for Sappi’s investment in dissolving pulp, Mr Steve Binnie said: “Global demand continues to grow for renewable textiles derived from sustainable wood fibre. Sappi supplies over fifty percent of the world’s Lyocell demand, the next generation textile material made from cellulosic fibres. This expansion project not only meets customer demand for greater DP production and in particular Lyocell, but also significantly reduces the mill’s environmental footprint and supports Sappi’s decarbonization journey, whilst also generating an additional ZAR1 billion per annum in direct benefit to the KwaZulu-Natal economy.
He went on to express his gratitude to all Sappi role-players who had conceptualised the project and brought it to fruition, despite difficult conditions and interruptions resulting from Covid-19 restrictions. “By using renewable and sustainably sourced wood to produce circular, innovative biobased products, Sappi continues to have a positive impact on society and the planet by reducing and replacing the need for fossil-based products. In doing this, we are realising our purpose of building a thriving world.
The Saiccor mill, acquired by Sappi in 1989, established Sappi’s global reach into the lucrative international dissolving pulp (DP) markets. Since then, the mill has undergone three expansion projects to keep pace with global demand. Branded as ‘Verve’, almost all of the DP produced at the mill is sold globally into the Viscose Staple Fibres (VSF) markets for use in textiles and clothing for leading brands.
With regards to Sappi’s decarbonisation journey, Alex Thiel, CEO of Sappi Southern Africa indicated: “The installation of the largest sulphite recovery boiler in the world and the conversion of the calcium cooking line to the more sustainable magnesium bisulphite technology, reduces the need for coal-based power generation at the mill, leading to a significant reduction in fossil fuel energy requirements and increasing the mill’s renewable energy usage, additionally realising considerable variable cost savings.”