The history of Kotkamills Oy

The history of Kotkamills Oy started when Hans Gutzeit from Norway founded Finland’s most modern steam-powered sawmill on Kotkansaari island in 1872. At the time of its inauguration on 16 November 1872, the ‘Norwegian sawmill’, as it was called, employed 60 people, most of whom came from Norway. The mill brought a Norwegian colony of around 250 people to Kotka, at the time a town of just 800 inhabitants.

  

The sawmill building in 1872.

In 1906, the mill owners decided to build a sulphate pulp mill to make use of the surplus timber from sawmilling. The beginnings of the pulp mill, which started up in 1907, were not without difficulties. The townspeople complained about the ‘smell of money’, and the mill had problems with its raw water supply. Nevertheless, the operations became well established within a few years, the production gained momentum, and the pulp mill employed around a hundred people.

 

Builders of the pulp mill.

A tall oil distillery and a soap mill were established in connection with the pulp mill in 1920. Methanol and turpentine distilled from the pulp mill’s waste liquor were supplied to the Russian army, for instance, during the First World War.

The pulp mill was expanded in 1937. The new mill was erected around the old building, with the mill continuously running during the construction work.

 

The pulp mill from 1907 to 1910.

Kotka became the most heavily bombed town in Finland during World War II. The sawmill was destroyed by a fire after being hit in 1941, and a new plant was completed in 1944, while the war still carried on.

 

The new ‘Norwegian sawmill’ was finished during the war, in 1944.

Kraft paper production was started up in the 1950s to make use of the in-house pulp supply. Up to that time, the pulp mill’s output had been sold externally. Market studies forecasted excellent demand for sack paper and encouraged the start-up of two kraft paper machines at Kotka consecutively in 1953 and 1954.

 

Kotka Mills in the mid-1950s.

A new pulp production line utilising sawdust as the raw material was completed in 1964. The new raw material turned out to be successful in laminate core stock production, which had a decisive impact on the development of Absorbex.

Kotka Paper Mill produced both bleached and brown kraft paper. A converting plant built in connection with Kotka Mills in 1965 employed 60 people, producing a total of several thousands of tonnes of wrapping paper and other grades. The converting operation ended in 1978 after a catastrophic fire.

The paper machine PM7 was built at Tainionkoski in 1965 to make thin kraft grades and others speciality papers.

 

Kotka Mills’ paper machine hall, designed by Alvar Aalto, was admired particularly for its impressive glazed end wall.

A search was started for new products to replace sack paper during the 1970s. After some experimenting, the company decided to focus on the glued laminate paper grades Laminex and Absorbex. Due to increasing demand for Absorbex, the pulp mill was expanded in 1973 by adding another sawdust digester. At the same time, one of the paper machines specialised exclusively in producing Absorbex. Laminex production was shut down after a few years. A separate impregnating plant was started up in late 1979.

The sawmill upgraded from air drying to kiln drying between 1969 and 1974.

 

In the early 1970s the surroundings of the sawmill were still dominated by a large lumber yard. On the right-hand side one can see a residential building for the mill staff built in 1872 by Hans Gutzeit, the so-called ‘Gentlemen’s House’.

Sack paper production was shut down, and one of the paper machines (PM2) was converted for newsprint. The traditional long-fibre sulphate pulp production, which had started up in 1906, was also discontinued at this time, because the newsprint production started to use mechanical pulp (TMP) as its raw material. Newsprint production started in May 1981. The main product was improved newsprint, which was well suited for special supplements and advertising. The production line was modernised for magazine paper production in 1987, and the main product was named Solaris.

 

The Kotka Mills area on the eastern shore of Kotkansaari island encompasses 60 hectares of land and marks the same location as the very first sawmill established

Environmental sustainability increased in significance during the early 1990s. An anaerobic effluent treatment plant started up in 1990.

Energy production was modernised with the advent of a new combined heat and power plant in 1993. The natural-gas-fuelled plant boasts greater efficiency and is more environmentally sound. The power plant also made the mill self-sufficient in terms of electricity.

 

Log storage was transferred from water to dry land.

The sawmill underwent a comprehensive modernisation in 1996, redefining the outward appearance of the entire area. A curved north wall reused as a firewall became the only part remaining from the old sawmill building from the 1940s, and the layout of the entire mill was reoriented. Pond storage of logs was discontinued and log sorting was relocated to dry land. At the same time, the old frame saw plant was replaced with a new 2-line hew-saw plant.

The Malaysian impregnating plant L.P. Pacific Films was established in 1997 to more efficiently serve the Southern Hemisphere. The plant’s main products are Imprex films and core stock.

 

Kotkamills’ PM2 is one of the leading producers of machine finished coated paper in the world.

The early 2000s was a period of growth: capacities increased and machines were modernised to improve efficiency and paper quality. The laminate paper and pulp mill underwent capacity increases in 2001 and the magazine paper production in 2003.

The sawmill started to produce heat-treated wood in the early 2000s; however, this was later discontinued due to a change in ownership.

To improve effluent treatment, an activated sludge plant was completed in 2001.

 

The mills in 2004.

Stora Enso Kotka Mills become Kotkamills Oy under the new owner OpenGate Capital. A decision was made to invest in a plant for the treatment of recovered fibre. The new production line is expected to be fully operational in 2011.

 

Sawmilling and paper making continue at Kotka, employing around 500 people. Kotkamills Oy’s flag was raised in July 2010 to celebrate the birth of a new company.

Recycled fibre processing plant was inaugurated on April 1st, 2011. The plant produces recycled pulp from carton boxes collected from the surroundings of Kotka area. The recycled pulp is used in the manufacture of Absorbex Eco papers.

New Finnish owner from March 2015 onwards,
majority owner MB Funds.

Over EUR 100 million investment in converting
printing paper machine to produce high-quality
folding boxboard and barrier board, to be completed
in summer 2016.


The paper mill in summer 2015.


 
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