Based in forest-clad Sandaun Province since 1990, Vanimo Forest Products aims not only to take out logs but to export processed timber products and at the same time to be involved in a programme of works that will benefit the whole province of Sandaun. To this end it is constructing an integrated sawmill and processing plant at Vanimo and installing the necessary infrastructure. This K40 million project will log timber, cut it into boards, kiln-dry it and then either export it as logs or as sawn timber or process it further, in particular into high-value parquet flooring, hardwood plywood, and quality veneers. Eventually it is hoped to manufacture furniture for the export market.
The Project Agreement spells out a maximum harvest per year of 300,000 cubic metres of logs, of which 80,000 cubic metres is for processing locally, an amount which will increase. It is envisaged that by the year 2000 all logs harvested will be for local production, thus fulfilling the aims of the national government’s forest policy.
At the same time, and in fulfilment of the terms of its licence, Vanimo has been investing heavily in the infrastructure of Sandaun Province. Projects include 80 km of the East West Highway linking Aitape in the east to Vanimo. This road includes the Pual Bridge opened by the Prime Minister in July 95. When finished, it will pass through Serra, where logging is taking place and a wharf is being constructed.
Vanimo has also built seven double classroom schools, a library, six aid posts and an airstrip in the forest area, which is a concession totalling 326,000 hectares. Vanimo town has nearly tripled in population since Vanimo Forest Products came into the area. There are now quite a number of trade stores and supermarkets where previously there were very few.
“Many people say that this timber project is the life blood of Vanimo and of Sandaun Province generally”, says Vanimo’s General Manager, Philip Tiong.
All this is because of the thick virgin forests which cover most of Sandaun’s total land area. These forests contain more than 70 species of fine-quality timber trees, with species such as Kwila and Pencil Cedar being two of the most well-known. Sixty percent of these 70 species are hardwoods, the rest semi-hardwoods and softwoods.
The market in tropical hardwoods is heavily affected by environmental considerations and many foreign governments forbid the import of timber from non-sustainable sources. It is probably fortunate for PNG, and for Sandaun Province in particular, that the development of the timber industry here has come relatively late, when the proper management of forests is well understood.
Vanimo is operating a policy of reforestation by regeneration, in which the undergrowth is cleared around young trees which will be saleable in the future. Under the terms of its agreement, Vanimo must manage the regeneration of 1000 hectares of new forest each year.
PNG, by inviting Vanimo to be the concession-holder for this large forest area, has shown its faith in this company to conduct timber extraction in an environmentally responsible manner with accompanying social and economic benefits for the local people. Vanimo is honouring that commitment.