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 ZAR1 billion per annum direct contribution to the KZN economy.
  • Strengthens South Africa’s role as key global supplier of dissolving pulp, which goes into creating 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 ZAR7.7billion 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 (DP), Mr Steve Binnie said, “Global demand continues to grow for renewable textiles derived from sustainable woodfibre. Sappi supplies over fifty percent of the world’s demand for Lyocell pulp, 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 pulp, but also significantly reduces the mill’s environmental footprint and supports Sappi’s decarbonisation 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 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.”


For further information

Zelda Schwalbach
External Communications Lead
Sappi Southern Africa
Tel +27 (0)31 001 7300
Mobile +27 (0)83 652 8528


About the need for Verve – Sappi’s dissolving pulp (DP)

  • Global textile demand is growing, as a result of population growth, fashion and rising wealth in developing economies.
  • Against a backdrop of increasing global concern about climate change, the need to develop more climate-friendly solutions, derived from renewable materials that are not fossil-fuel based, is driving the demand for viscose, which is derived from DP.
  • Fabrics made from cellulose differ from other feedstock fibres in that they are breathable, absorbent, recyclable and biodegradable, providing a unique and appealing look, feel and drape.
  • In a resource-constrained world, woodfibre provides a sustainable alternative to other feedstocks. Unlike many synthetic raw materials Sappi Verve is produced from a natural, renewable resource – woodfibre – that is certified and traceable.
  • Sappi’s focus on sustainability, provides assurance of a product with a legacy of commitment to our people, the communities within which we operate, prosperity for all and a lighter footprint on our planet.
  • This project makes an important contribution to supporting the transition to the production of low carbon raw materials in the wood based cellulosic sector, as the textile industry commits to its own science-based targets.

Technical fast facts

  • The expansion and upgrades include a new evaporator, recovery boiler, screening and washing plant, as well as upgrades to the bleach plant and pulp machines, improved recovery circuits and additional magnesium digesters.
  • New technology employed incorporates improved washing technology to optimise water and energy efficiency, optimised cooking technology for improved pulp quality control, the application of robotics to facilitate debottlenecking and shop-floor digitisation for improved commissioning, control and operational efficiency.
  • Upgrades to the woodyard to enable smooth logistics supply chain operation include the installation of offloading equipment, side-arm rail carriage chargers and new chipper lines.
  • Installation of the largest sulphite recovery boiler in the world, with the capacity to process of up to 1,500 tons of dry solids per day.
  • 110 kilometres (kms) of cabling equivalent to the distance from Durban to Howick.
  • 56 kms of piping equivalent to the distance from Durban to Cato Ridge.
  • More than 2,000 trucks of concrete were used (about 30,000 tons).
  • An amount equivalent to half the amount of steel that went into building the Eiffel Tower in Paris was used in construction.
  • Pipe bridge modularisation was a first for Sappi SA – to our knowledge, this was the largest undertaken in South Africa.

Environmental fast facts

  • There are several best available technology (BAT) improvements which will lead to substantial environmental benefits.
  • Fossil-fuel CO2 emissions, SO2 emissions, water consumption and waste to landfill will significantly reduce and specific water use efficiency is expected to improve.
  • The project will help Sappi achieve its target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 18% by 2025.
  •  A key milestone for ambitious decarbonisation plans and our science-based target, approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to reduce Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions by 41.5% by 2030.



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.
Sir Nigel Rudd
Chairman of Sappi Limited