The upgrade and expansion projects, collectively dubbed Project Vulindlela, have resulted in the construction of one of the biggest dedicated dissolving pulp plants of its kind in the world and has meant a huge boost to the local economy. This expansion by the Sappi group answers President Ramaphosa’s call for investment into the South African economy by SA companies.
The multi-billion investment, first announced and with work commencing in 2018, was spurred by global demand for dissolving pulp, particularly from garment manufacturers who use it in the production of viscose, although the pulp has multiple applications including in the food and pharmaceutical sectors. The Sappi Saiccor Mill has an enormous economic impact on the area it operates in. Of Sappi’s national workforce of close to 5,000 people, more than 1,200 are employed at Saiccor Mill. During Vulindlela’s construction, an additional 2,000 jobs were created to assemble the gargantuan structure.
Wayne Weston, Sappi’s Vulindlela Project Manager, said 30,000 tons of concrete and about half as much steel as was used to build the Eiffel Tower in Paris went into the upgrade. The new structure was essentially bolted onto the existing plant which continued operating. The new plant will boost the annual production capacity of dissolving pulp at Saiccor Mill by 110,000 tons to 890,000 tons per annum.