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December : Sappi Lomati Sawmill celebrates 50 years of excellence

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6 December, 2021

Sappi Lomati Sawmill celebrates 50 years of excellence

 Sappi Lomati Sawmill celebrates 50 years of excellence

The Sappi Lomati Sawmill recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, following a colourful history that actually adds a further quarter century with original beginnings dating back to 1946. The current structure situated in Barberton town was however completed and officially opened on 11 November 1971.

Historically products included scaffolding boards, shipping container floors, laminated beams, sleepers for the mining industry, mouldings, flooring, ceiling and decking. Today  the sawmill is one of the four biggest producers of structural timber, and one of the biggest finger joint timber manufacturers in the country.

General Manager Pieter Briel reflected on the cost of building the mill during a staff function held recently saying: "It took two years to build Lomati Sawmill, at a cost R1.2 million, which was a lot of money in those days. He continued to thank the Lomati employees for their great contribution to the success of the mill, which had excellent production records in 2021, making it the mill's best performing year in recent times, saying : "The 2021 financial year is proof of our people's extraordinary character and shows what can be done when people do their best, despite the hardships that we faced and despite Covid."

Pieter went on to say that although gold production was a major driver in Barberton's development, the timber industry played a valuable part, and is regarded today as one of the two major economic contributors of Barberton and the Lowveld. 

Historic milestones and an impressive record !

The first timber was processed in 1971 on a frame saw line, but as markets changed, the mill turned its focus to processing shorter timber through the mill (2.4m lengths). In January 1999 the mill installed a new finger joint processing plant - the largest of its kind in the country at the time. In 2000, the mill turned its focus primarily to finger jointed structural timber. In 2012 new drying kilns were imported from Germany and in 2015/16 a new finger joint line was imported from Germany as well, which contributes to the mill's success today as being considered one of the best producers of structural timber in the country.  Historically it is also interesting to note that one of the largest beams ever laminated at the Lomati Sawmill can still be found in the PPK Church in Benoni on the East Rand. It measures 150mm thick x 700mm wide x 13,35 metres long; impressive, even by today's standards!

Sappi Lomati Sawmill celebrates 50 years of excellence

Lomati mill celebrates 50 years of excellence

Source: Sappi