A RM3.5 billion pulp mill within the Sarawak planted forests region in Samarakan, Tatau is expected to go into operation between end of 2010 and early 2011.

State Forest Department director Datuk Len Latif Salleh revealed this when declaring open the Sarawak Planted Forests Training Center in Samarakan near Sungai Mas, about an hour’s drive from here yesterday.

Len said they had delineated a total of 800 hectares for the setting up of the pulp mill. He said once the mill is in operation, not only would it contribute to the economy of Sarawak but create jobs and business opportunities for locals in the region.

He revealed that under the planted forests project, more than 100,000 hectares of industrial” tree plantations would be established with another 150,000 hectares within reach.

Len said it was the state government’s vision to see that the targeted volume of some 1 million hectares of planted forests was achieved by year 2020. There are some 120,000 hectares of land under Native Customary Rights (NCR), and if the owners were to participate in the planted forest project, they and their children would benefit from it, Len pointed out.

The planted forests project involves planting fast growing species of tree (acacia) that mature and are ready for harvesting in seven years. With Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) to take off, a lot of foreign expertise would

be required to kicks tart the operation of the mill such as professionals in the chemical, mechanical and IT field and even logging specialists.

“You will see a lot of expatriates here. Do not blame the foreigners for working here if you are not willing to acquire the much needed expertise and skills,” he added.
The Sarawak Planted Forests Training Center should be the center to produce human capital with skill and expertise needed for SCORE, he added.

“The center is another milestone and starting point. Today you may call this a center, but later it may become a college and perhaps, one day, an institution,” Len added.

The center is located some 57 km south of Bintulu, within the region of SCORE and it provides skill training to meet the requirements of the planted forest industries, professionals, technical and general workers.

The training concept is competency-based with heavy emphasis on gaining workplace experience, while tuition and assessment are modular in form with course content based on national and international best operating practices.

The course includes basic forest induction on safety, health and environment; forest supervisor training covering planted forest activities like site preparation, forest maintenance, emergency response for forest incidents (eg forest fire fighting); chainsaw and tree felling; training for heavy equipment operators; graduate industrial attachment and further education; and training for employees; trade apprenticeship scheme and youth development programme.

There are some 70 trainees at the training center, most residing in longhouses near the planted forest region. The center offers 12 modules of courses related to the forest industry for a three-month period per course.

Sarawak Planted Forests Sdn Bhd general manager Dr Joseph Jawa Kendawang and Grand Perfect Sdn Bhd senior general manager Darren Ellis were among those who spoke.

Present at the function were KTS group deputy managing director Stephen Lau, Sarawak administrative officer (Bintulu) David Kala, senior officers of Grand Perfect Sdn Bhd and representatives from government agencies.