In Uruguay the month of December is generally one of the busiest times in the year. Not just because of the approaching year end, but it’s also the last month before the summer holiday season. The last few months have also been very exciting for us – since the investment decision in July we have moved full speed ahead to start preparatory work for our new state-of-the-art pulp mill in Paso de los Toros. In addition to the new mill, this project includes building a pulp terminal at the Montevideo port as well as other related facilities, such as permanent and temporary apartments and houses for construction employees, and infrastructure.
There are currently over 700 people working on the mill site preparation, housing construction in the outskirts of Paso de los Toros as well as on pulp terminal construction and dredging at the port. Half of the workers in Paso de los Toros and Durazno are from the region.
Several initiatives ongoing
Besides construction, several initiatives have been started in line with the regional development plan. These include both professional and complementary training, support for entrepreneurship as well as awareness building – for example on road safety.
The government-led Río Negro Initiative aimed at improving the conditions of the Rio Negro river has also established a technical office in Paso de los Toros. UPM is contributing USD 10.5 million to this initiative and improvement of the sanitation system of Paso de los Toros and Pueblo Centenario.
Throughout all this we have continued active communication and engagement with the local community and stakeholders.
In November we opened a new UPM office in Paso de los Toros. This serves as an information point and many people have already visited to learn about the project, UPM in Uruguay and the training and work opportunities that the project will bring as it proceeds.
Last week UPM President and CEO Jussi Pesonen visited us here in Uruguay. He, as well as other UPM executives, often visit Uruguay to meet with the local team and stakeholders. This is natural given the importance of our current operations and the investment – USD 3 billion – which is the largest the company has ever made. On this visit Jussi Pesonen also met with the country's newly elected leader Luis Lacalle Pou in Montevideo to greet and congratulate the new President.
On Thursday, 12 December, we held a local information meeting to share progress with everyone in Paso de los Toros. Just like previous information meetings, we had a full house and active participation.
We continue to engage and share information through information meetings and on our project website at https://www.upm.uy/en/growth as we proceed. Knowing the importance of this project to UPM and my home country, and the positive impact that the Fray Bentos mill continues to have on the local community, it is both humbling and exciting to be part of this investment and share its progress!