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A BULK ship will dock in Portland tomorrow to load the first output from a new $32 million woodchip mill near Heywood.
The export shipment to Japan will help lift gloomy clouds hanging over the Green Triangle's huge bluegum plantation industry.
Yesterday's official opening of the South West Fibre mill at Myamyn renewed confidence in the industry which was rocked when two major plantation companies went into receivership earlier this year.
Glenelg Shire Mayor Geoff White described the mill as a landmark investment after several setbacks.
``There's a lot of goodwill involved with the council, industry and State Government working to get it completed in a time of global economic recession,'' he said.
Another multi-million-dollar mill is planned for Heywood to produce wood pellets for energy generation in Europe.
This mill will use timber debris from plantation floors.
Cr White said he understood equipment for the proposed mill was already on its way to Portland by ship.
The Port of Portland's export facilities will also be boosted with a new storage and loading depot being negotiated with timber giant Gunns.
``We will be able to export up to 4.5 million tonnes a year, which is a three-fold increase,'' Cr White said.
``It helps diversify our economy base from renewable energy components and the Alcoa smelter.''
The Myamyn mill has been operating for a month, processing trees logged from plantations in south-east South Australia and south-west Victoria.
It aims to build its throughput to a maximum of 1.3 million tonnes a year by 2011.
Two B-double trucks operate around-the-clock carrying chips for export to Japan and potentially China for processing into paper.
South West Fibre also has planning approval to build a rail siding at Myamyn so it can use trains to the port. It also harvests woodchips from mobile equipment operating within plantations in the region.
The mill is a joint venture between Geelong-based Midway and Japan-based Mitsui.
It required a major upgrade of the Heywood electricity terminal station and a new 15-kilometre high-voltage powerline using a $300,000 State Government grant.
Member for Western Victoria Gayle Tierney told yesterday's official opening the power upgrade would pave the way for more large industrial developments in the area.
Ms Tierney said the State Government worked with Midway, SP Ausnet and Powercor to co-ordinate the electricity upgrade and fast-track the high-voltage power supply.
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