By George Fullerton
After just a few weeks operating their new Ponsse ScorpionKing harvester, brothers Jean François and Steve Lemieux were convinced that they made the right decision in purchasing the machine.
The Lemieux Brothers—based in Causapscal, Quebec, in the heart of the Gaspé Region—made a deal on the Ponsse ScorpionKing with ALPA Equipment of Balmoral, New Brunswick, this past fall, trading in their Ponsse Fox harvester.
The ScorpionKing harvester, along with their Wisent forwarder, then went to work under contract to Coopérative forestière de La Matapédia, harvesting on Crown land in the eastern region of the Gaspé, with logs going to the Gaston Cellard sawmill at Pointe-À-La-Garde, Quebec, located on the Bay de Chaleur coast.
The work commute from their home in Causapscal to the harvest site is a two-hour drive, followed by a two-hour drive home, after their ten hour shift. Long days, indeed.
Jean François and Steve operate the ScorpionKing on opposite shifts. Shifts run from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., and 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Both Jean François and Steve are members of the Forest Cooperative, and they received financial support from the Co-op, initially to purchase the Ponsse Fox four years ago, and more recently, for the ScorpionKing.
The Lemieux Brothers, in their mid-thirties, represent a generation of knowledgeable and ambitious harvest contractors who want to build a future in forest harvesting and resource management. And having the right gear is an important element in achieving success in the highly competitive logging arena.
The Lemieux Brothers operated various kinds of forestry equipment for logging contractors in the Gaspé prior to establishing Les Enterprises Lemieux. They were attracted to the Ponsse brand with its reputation for operator comfort and production performance.
Despite their high degree of skill, knowledge, ambition and business skills, young entrepreneurs like the Lemieux’s face a very difficult challenge to obtain the financing necessary to purchase expensive harvesting gear.
Coopérative forestière de La Matapédia general manager Simon Roy came to their assistance with an offer to support financing for a one-third stake in the new ScorpionKing. The deal sees the Lemieux Brothers contracting for the Co-op, as the machine is paid down. At the end of the financing period, the ownership of the ScorpionKing goes to the Lemieux.
Coopérative forestière de La Matapédia was established in 1994, and currently employs seventy-nine workers, seventy-two of which are members of the Cooperative. The Co-op provides forestry contract services to Crown forest and other forest industry operations, including mechanized commercial thinning, mechanized timber harvesting (200,000 cubic metres), manual timber harvesting, timber transport, technical supervision of forestry operations, forest road construction and maintenance, and forest biomass production.
The Co-op also manages two subsidiaries. Bois CFM is a relatively small sawmill operation which manufactures pallet components. The second, Energy CFM, specializes in the production and sale of forest biomass for residential, industrial and institutional heating.
Another organization, Vision Biomass Quebec, was launched in 2015. This entity represents Co-ops like Coopérative forestière de La Matapédia, along with municipalities, industries, and environmental and rural development organizations. Their vision is to create 16,000 jobs through development of forest biomass heating to replace some 400 million litres (annually) of oil used to heat industrial facilities, municipal and institutional buildings throughout the province.
Co-op Matapedia is a member of La Fédération Québécoise des coopératives forestières (FQCF), which represents forest workers’ cooperatives throughout Quebec. The first co-operative syndicate was founded in Grande-Vallée in the Gaspé in 1938. The co-operatives contract to harvest and sell wood, and many of the co-ops also own a sawmill and are involved in other forestry related enterprises. In 1946, there were twenty-one forest worker cooperatives and that number grew to 167 individual co-ops in 1970. Today, some 60 forestry co-ops remain active.
Shortly after getting the machine, Les enterprises Lemieux were operating their new ScorpionKing and their Wisent forwarder on former Consolidated-Bathurst timber limits, doing primarily partial cut thinning on forest land that has been regenerated by a combination of balsam fir natural regeneration and fill-planted Norway spruce.
The Gaspé is a very rugged landscape on the remnants of the ancient Appalachian Mountain range. The landscape is cut by fast flowing streams and rivers which run either south to the Bay de Chaleur or north and east to the lower St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The steep slopes which were considered inoperable in the past today contain a good deal of high value timber, and with modern technology like the ScorpionKing teamed with the Wisent forwarder, these areas are now generating a good deal of wood supply.
It is in this steep and challenging terrain where the abilities of the ScorpionKing shine, according to the Lemieux Brothers. The ScorpionKing offers advantages over the Fox, including increased power and traction, and an 11 metre reach with its H6 head.
The ScorpionKing shares the three section frame model with its less powerful Ponsse brother. The three oscillating frames allow the harvester cab to remain level in very uneven terrain, providing operator comfort and in turn greater productivity compared to other harvesters.
The double bogie design enhances the machine’s stability and provides traction on steep slopes.
Both models share a boom system that extends in a wishbone fashion from the base of the cab, and up over top of the cab, providing the operator with an unobstructed view of the worksite and a good deal of surrounding forest.
The ScorpionKing double bogie benefits from a patented weight shifting technology which makes the machine extremely stable, and provides the operator with a very high degree of comfort in rough terrain.
The ScorpionKing is powered by a six-cylinder Mercedes-Benz engine rated for 205 Kw. While the standard Scorpion functions with a single 210 cubic centimetre hydraulic pump, the ScorpionKing is fitted with two pumps rated at 145 and 190 cubic centimetres, providing the King model with greater dedicated oil flow to the head.
Equipped with the Ponsse H6 head, the ScorpionKing can work at a reach of 11 metres. The H6 has a maximum cutting diameter of 64 cm or 25.2 inches, which makes it a flexible head for either thinning or clearcut applications.
Jasmin LeBlanc, who represents ALPA throughout the Gaspé Region, explained that the primary advantage of the ScorpionKing, compared to the Fox, boils down to greater production. He pointed out that contractors recognize that higher production will provide their business with a stronger bottom line.
“The Fox is a great machine and the only mid-sized harvester with a double bogie,” he says. “The Fox has a four cylinder engine and has amazing fuel economy. The ScorpionKing has more power with its six cylinder engine, and it burns a bit more fuel, but that power advantage allows it to produce a lot more wood.”
LeBlanc pointed out having a dedicated pump supplying the head means it can function and produce at its optimum capacity, regardless of other machine functions. He also noted the Scorpion-King’s computerized weight transfer system, which makes the machine very stable when harvesting even big trees. The increased power and stability also give the ScorpionKing an advantage compared to the Fox when operating on steep slopes.
The Gaspé Region weather—influenced by its adjacent marine environment—includes plenty of moisture and copious natural regeneration. The boreal forest is primarily balsam fir on better drained sites, and black spruce in wet sites.
The Lemieux Brothers were operating in a block which had been reforested, following its past harvest, by fill planting Norway spruce in balsam fir natural regeneration. The block was then tended with a pre-commercial thinning. They were doing a commercial thinning of the block, generating a mix of balsam fir and Norway spruce saw logs.
The Lemieux’s harvest block was a Crown block which is managed by BMMB (Bureau du mise en marché des bois).
The Norway spruce, unfortunately, is not graded similarly with native spruce species, due to its strength characteristics. As a result, Norway spruce is not mixed and processed and sold in the same streams as native spruces.
As a consequence, logs were being directed to the Gaston Cellard Inc. sawmill located in Pointe-a-la-Garde, which has multiple markets for softwood in addition to construction grades.
The Gaston Cellard sawmill is a family-owned operation which sells lumber, both hardwood and softwood, into a variety of markets, including landscape and fencing products.
As a result of the closures of pulp mills in the Gaspé Region in the past number of years, no pulp wood was being produced from the Lemieux operation. The fledgling biomass industry in the region currently handles only a very small amount of low grade small diameter logs.
Asked for his impression of the new ScorpionKing, Jean François Lemieux commented: “We had heard people talking about how much performance the ScorpionKing delivered—and after seeing and working with it, I can confirm that what they said is true.”
On the Cover:
The Princeton, B.C. sawmill of Weyerhaeuser Canada has seen some major equipment upgrades in the last few years—but there is more to come, as the sawmill continues its efforts to make operations more efficient, and reduce costs. The two-line sawmill in the B.C. Interior turns out upwards of 300 million board feet of SPF lumber annually, and is undergoing a multi-year upgrade (Cover photo by Paul MacDonald).
Working to keep the risks of Climate Warming at bay
Warming climates up the risk of forest fires, and one community forest, in Burns Lake, B.C., is implementing a fire mitigation project that will help protect the town’s forest industry—and social assets.
Combo mill upgrade project
The Gilbert Smith Forest Products sawmill in Barriere, B.C. recently completed a lumber grading/sorting project that combines the lumber flow from the mill and planer through the same system, which required a good amount of ingenuity and resourcefulness since it involved combining new and used equipment.
Alberta forest industry update
Just in time for the Alberta Forest Products Association AGM in Jasper, Logging and Sawmilling Journal takes a look at what’s going on in the Alberta forest industry, and how the industry is dealing with the duties on lumber going to the industry’s #1 customer: the U.S.
Great equipment fit in the Gaspé
A new Ponsse ScorpionKing harvester is proving to be a great fit for brothers Jean François and Steve Lemieux, and their harvesting operation in Quebec’s Gaspé Region.
Automatic lubrication is the best defense against mill downtime, say Roland Lorenz and David McDougall, of the Beka Group.
Major upgrade for Weyerhaeuser Princeton
Weyerhaeuser’s Princeton, B.C. sawmill is in the midst of a major upgrade that includes the front end of the mill and primary breakdown equipment.
Three important words in B.C. roadbuilding: diversify, diversify, diversify
B.C. roadbuilding outfit Black River Contracting does a fair amount of work for the forest industry, but company owner Kelly Sunderman finds it’s best to diversify their workload—and they may find themselves doing some work associated with the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, if it gets the go-ahead.
A Finnish focus in the forest
Ontario’s Shuniah Forest Products carries out logging the Finnish-Canadian family way, with a strong focus on their employees, teamwork—and their award-winning safety program.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates and Alberta Agriculture.