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Explosion prompts unscheduled break for Peace River pulp mill

ALBERTA (From news reports) -- Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) officers are investigating an explosion at the Daishowa-Marubeni International (DMI) Ltd. pulp mill in Peace River that caused extensive damage and has forced the facility to take an unscheduled break in operations.

DMI spokesperson Amber Armstrong says the recovery boiler explosion occurred around 1:30 p.m. on September 22.

"Our investigation is determining that it was a failed piece of equipment within the process itself," which caused the blast, said Armstrong.

The damage is still being assessed, but Armstrong says it was significant enough to stop operations in the mill, for between three to four weeks.

"Just imagine a tin can, and the pressure inside of a tin can being blown outward," said Armstrong.

She says the company hopes to resume pulp production within six weeks.

The boiler is about 10 storeys high, and the explosion occurred inside the vessel, said Armstrong. She said the boiler is still intact, but welders and structural specialists have been called in to safely bring the mill back online.

While the repairs are being done, the mill's 300 full-time permanent employees and 400 regional contractors have not been laid off, and are still working at the mill and being paid as usual, Armstrong said.

"We are simply just taking this as an opportunity to look at other areas where we can invest our time and energies," said Armstrong.

Alberta Labour spokesperson Trent Bancarz said that because there were no injuries, OHS investigators are on a "fact-finding" mission, with the express purpose of determining how to prevent future mill explosions.

Under Occupational Health and Safety legislation, Bancarz said a company can face charges for violations in such an incident. He said OHS investigations are required to be completed within two years of an incident.

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