On 23 July 2019 UPM announced its decision to build a new pulp mill in Uruguay. Since then we have been firing on all cylinders – despite one of the biggest curveballs I have seen in my entire career.
In the past 401 days since the investment decision we have:
- Prepared the mill construction site consisting of earth moving and fencing work that resulted in 12.5 kilometres of fences – and established temporary offices. Civil construction works are proceeding at full speed. Currently we are proceeding with the construction of the recovery island and the chimney, which is over 15 metres in diameter and grows 20 centimetres in height every hour!
- Finalised the dredging and sand filling works in the Montevideo port where our new pulp terminal will be, and proceeding now with construction of the embankment and warehouse
- Finalised the first section of the housing solutions that include both temporary homes for construction workers as well as permanent houses for future mill workers and the local community. In Paso de los Toros workers have been settling into their temporary houses since May. The other temporary housing sites are also proceeding, as well as the construction of the 60 permanent houses in Paso de los Toros and Pueblo Centenario. Once the mill is up and running, these houses will be transferred to the state of Uruguay providing homes for the local community.
- Started the construction of our third nursery in Uruguay. This investment of approximately USD 25 million will have an annual production capacity of over 10 million seedlings of Eucalyptus dunnii and Eucalyptus grandis and provide 120 new permanent jobs.
- Signed agreements on mill technology with Andritz and chemical supply with Kemira, alongside dozens of other supplier agreements.
A curveball of epic proportions
When you are running a project of this scale with a global team and over 6,000 people that will working on the mill site in the peak construction period, a global pandemic is the last thing you want.
At the time of the Covid-19 outbreak we had about 1,000 people already working on 16 different construction sites in Central Uruguay and in Montevideo.
Uruguay was not the first country to be hit by the pandemic and thanks to the fast and decisive actions of the Government of Uruguay, the situation in the country has been extremely well contained. In fact, at the time of writing this blog, Uruguay is the only country in South America that the EU allows access from.
We also took immediate steps ourselves to prevent the spreading of the virus: the health and safety of our employees and constructors is always our first priority and we are well aware of our role and responsibility as part of the local community.
Due to the measures we’ve taken, we only had the first positive Covid-19 cases in August. We implemented immediate quarantine of over 40 people who had been in contact with the two individuals who tested positive. We will continue with stringent measures and active testing to ensure the project will proceed in a safe way with a healthy crew.
New opportunities for everyone
It has been heartwarming to see the commitment and determination of our team during this year as well as the interest and enthusiasm of the community.
Throughout all this we have continued active dialogue with the local communities. In addition to over 150 face to face meetings we have had with different stakeholders in Uruguay since 2016, we have opened various social media channels and organized online information sessions to continue open communication even during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The online recruitment platforms have been flooded with interest, and the professional training courses for construction as well as training for business people and entrepreneurs have successfully started. The first batch of new mill operators have begun their training at our Fray Bentos mill providing career opportunities for young technicians and professionals joining the mill production team.
These young professionals – and the numerous entrepreneurs and small business owners already involved in the project – are only the first of the 10,000 permanent jobs that the new mill is expected to create. Especially in these times of uncertainty, it’s great to bring this kind of certainty of new opportunities and possibilities.
Senior Vice President, UPM, Uruguay Development Project