Sappi Saiccor hosts MEC and TIKZN delegation to Vulindlela expansion project

The Sappi Saiccor Mill situated in Umkomaas, KwaZulu-Natal hosted a high-level delegation from the office of the outgoing MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), Ms Nomusa Dube-Ncube, as part of the KZN International Investment Conference today. The MEC was accompanied by the Deputy Mayor of Ethekwini, Councillor Belinda Scott and the TIKZN Chairperson, Ms Ina Cronje. 

Speaking on behalf of Sappi Southern Africa, the Chief Executive Officer Mr Alex Thiel welcomed the delegation to the mill, stating that Sappi Southern Africa was honoured to be included in the main programme of the 2020 South African Investment Conference in KwaZulu-Natal and to showcase the investment programme worth ZAR7.7 billion at Sappi Saiccor Mill, known as Project Vulindlela. The programme was first announced during the inaugural Presidential Investment Conference in 2018, when it supported President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call for significant investment into the South African economy. 

More about Project Vulindlela: 

This combined ZAR7,7bn investment is aimed at increasing capacity and global competitiveness, significantly reducing the environmental footprint of the company and equipment and process upgrades and improvements at its Saiccor Mill in Umkomaas. Not only will fossil fuel CO2 emissions be halved and SO2 emissions be reduced, but water use efficiency will improve and waste to landfill will be significantly reduced. This all, while increasing the mills’ capacity by 110,000 tons per annum and creating additional future permanent employment for 120 people and saving the company at least ZAR300m per annum through improved and more efficient processes.  

These are all excellent advantages for the company, but there are other winners too – like the province of KwaZulu-Natal which will earn an additional ZAR1 billion per annum direct benefit to the economy. The construction phase of the programme, which will conclude towards the end of 2021, will create employment for about 2,000 people, with 1,670 employees from the local communities surrounding the mill already having benefited through the Vulindlela on-boarding facility.

Environmentally, Sappi recognises the science of climate change and acknowledges the role it needs to play in reducing its emissions. Upon completion of this project the company will be better placed to meet its future emission reduction targets which are aligned with the global Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) objective to limit the increase in the global average temperature to well-below 2°C or 1.5°C.

Sappi exists to build a thriving world by unlocking the power of renewable resources to benefit people, communities, and the planet. By using a renewable resource like woodfibre to manufacture a versatile and necessary product such as dissolving pulp (DP) - the product made at the Saiccor Mill - the company believes that it is achieving its purpose.  

DP is used mostly to make viscose fibres for use in textiles, offering a sustainable and renewable alternative. Viscose is a versatile and beautiful fabric which is highly moisture-absorbent and cooler on the skin; it is luxurious and soft to the touch and also drapes very well; just some of the reasons why fashion houses are moving away from other fabrics. Besides textiles, higher cellulose content DP is used in a myriad of other applications – from industrial products such as the cord used in tyres, rayon staple for high-quality fabrics, non-woven applications in the healthcare, industrial and disposable product market, acetate, microcrystalline and other speciality products.

The Vulindlela project will increase the mill’s production of DP from 780,000 tons per annum to 890,000 tons per annum. The expansion and upgrades will 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. Sappi’s focus remains to conclude the capacity expansion and related items projects at Saiccor Mill. Progress is very good after the interruption of the COVID-19 lockdown. With the concomitant delay we expect the capacity expansion project to be completed around June/July 2021 along with substantial completion of the other related items. The upgrade to the pulp machine 4 consisting of the screening plant, extended nip press, baling line and winder upgrade have been successfully completed, commissioned and are in operation.