Premier Tech is bringing to Pointe-aux-Outardes the final stage of a research project that could revolutionize the world of peat harvesting. And if the expected results over the next two to three years meet expectations, the Baie-Comeau region and the entire Côte-Nord region will also benefit.
At least that’s what Bernard Bélanger, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Premier Tech, predicts. He has big plans for this project, which began in Rivière-du-Loup four years ago with research carried out mainly in the laboratory, then continued in offices in New Brunswick.
The company, whose head office is in Rivière-du-Loup and which has peat production and processing facilities in Pointe-Lebel, hopes to bring to life a new method of harvesting that is cleaner than that involving current vacuum cleaners, used in 90% of harvesting operations worldwide.
“It’s having a different method. We cut with a spade (in the beginning). We aspired. Now, we are looking for a new way to produce peat that would be more protective of the environment and less unpleasant for our people,” says the big boss. “We want to eliminate everything that can annoy people, such as dust, noise, groundwater (damage). »
Mr. Bélanger dreams of seeing this new method exported around the world. Premier Tech in Rivière-du-Loup being the largest supplier of peat production technologies in the world. “Eighty percent of new technologies or equipment are produced in our factories either in Rivière-du-Loup or our factories in Europe, but these technologies leave from Rivière-du-Loup. »
A great potential
Premier Tech considers that the future of this technology lies with Pointe-aux-Outarde and its vast lands, an integral part of the mining rights of more than 10,000 acres that it owns and which also cover Pointe-Lebel. Currently, barely 10% of this one and the same bog is in production.
“We chose after looking at Rivière-du-Loup and the surrounding area. We looked in New Brunswick, where we also have land. We said the potential is much greater in Pointe-aux-Outardes. There is more future there, the space is big. This is where we will establish and ensure that this technology will work,” adds Mr. Bélanger, while noting the collaboration of Université Laval for the scientific aspect of the research. “What we can say as an industrialist, we have to be able to prove it scientifically. »
Some work was carried out in 2022, but field research will really intensify in 2023. “Currently, in terms of production at Pointe-aux-Outardes, it is minimal. We work for one hour and rebuild the machine for two hours. We test equipment that has been manufactured in the factory and that we take to the field. In the field, we discover the truth (with) the technology we thought might work. It is a research project. »
The President and CEO of Premier Tech continues to cross his fingers for the success of the research project. If so, industrial production will begin in Pointe-aux-Outardes. The factory already in place in the neighboring municipality, which employs about fifty people, would be expanded and transformed accordingly.
The Côte-Nord winner
The whole region could come out a winner with this innovative technology. “The North Shore will become important because there are a lot of peat reserves on the North Shore. The terrain and the type of peat would perhaps be very advantageous for this type of harvest,” says Mr. Bélanger. In fact, he thinks the same of the northern regions of Quebec.
Premier Tech has other mining rights on the North Shore, in the Sept-Îles region. A factory was once in operation, but it closed. The new technology could perhaps lead to its reopening, believes the big boss.
At nearly 89 years old, Bernard Bélanger is still at the helm of his company. He considers himself lucky to benefit from a first and even second generation family succession.