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[GreenYes] Papermaking
fyi Wall Street Journal of October 7th.

Mine Pits Two Green Goals
Against Each Other in Town
A Scenic Town Fights Mine for Mineral
That Lets Papermakers Use Fewer Trees

DANBY, Vt. -- The gently sloping mountain known locally as Dutch Hill rises
above a lush valley and a white steepled church. The idyllic spot so
captures the essence of old Vermont that the state featured a photo of it
recently on Gov. Howard Dean's official Web site, with the caption "Time
Stands Still Here."
But the serenity of Dutch Hill is threatened by what lies beneath its acres
of green: a rich supply of the unusually useful mineral calcium carbonate.
It turns up in crayons, car fenders, paint and many plastic products, as
well as Cheerios, Cheez-Its and antacids. Its biggest role, though, has come
with a change in the way paper is made. And Swiss mining company Omya AG
wants to spend the next 50 years blasting away at Dutch Hill to extract the
In recent years, most papermakers have adopted a process that replaces much
of the wood fiber used in paper with the white, chalky mineral. It makes for
a brighter and longer-lasting, albeit somewhat limper, paper than the
old-fashioned method did. According to Omya, about 15% of the more than 100
million tons of paper made every year is calcium carbonate.

Swiss mining company Omya AG wants to open a calcium carbonate mine in
Danby, Vt., on the eastern face of this mountain, known as Dutch Hill.

The result: the mineral is now at the center of a difficult fight pitting
two competing views of what's best for the environment. The number of trees
that would have to be felled to replace the calcium carbonate in paper could
number well into the tens of millions. Calcium carbonate is also used in
smokestacks to neutralize harmful gases before they are released, and is a
prime ingredient in lead-free paint and asbestos-free ceiling tiles.
Omya, facing a grueling review of its proposed mine under Vermont's strict
environmental laws, is reminding residents and officials of these benefits
at every turn. Jim Reddy, president of Omya's U.S. unit in Proctor, Vt.,
also says that while the company has no data on how many trees have been
spared by using calcium carbonate in papermaking, the savings to forests
have been "substantial."
On the other hand, Omya's weekly explosions would open a hole in the
mountain -- although how big, unsightly and permanent a hole is a matter of
dispute. Its 38-ton trucks would be plying quiet local roads daily and its
water needs could threaten a supply already squeezed by drought and other
"I thought paper came from trees, not from scenic mountains," says Annette
Smith, a Danby resident who is leading local opposition to Omya. "Trees grow
back. Scenic mountains do not."
The paper industry originally began to adopt calcium carbonate because
manufacturers were concerned about cost and quality, not about the
environment. The new papermaking process, developed in the 1950s by Omya and
other mining companies, began taking off among European paper companies in
the 1960s and 1970s because the wood fiber it replaced is scarce and
expensive in Europe.
In the U.S., the change has been slower, in part because timber is more
plentiful here. Domestic papermakers began switching to the
calcium-carbonate process in the 1980s, and they continue doing so today.
The reason, says David Dyer, a scientist at International Paper Co.: saving
money both on wood fiber and on titanium dioxide, a pigment that makes the
paper bright. Paper made with calcium carbonate is already so bright that
less pigment is needed. It also won't yellow or grow brittle with time. In
addition, the calcium-carbonate process is less acidic and therefore causes
less wear and tear on the expensive machinery used in making paper.
Today, standard copy paper used in the U.S. contains as much as 20% calcium
carbonate, Mr. Dyer says. That's still not as high as the 25% in Europe, in
part because American customers have been concerned that the limper paper
might stick in copy machines. International Paper, says Mr. Dyer, thinks
modern copy machines can handle the limper paper. The Stamford, Conn.,
company is looking for more ways to increase the amount of calcium carbonate
in paper without making it too floppy.

Write to Laura Johannes at
Updated October 7, 2002
Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph:    (608) 231-1100
Fax:   (608) 233-0011

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