24th August 2023

Vasile Damian, new Sawmill Manager at GMG Energy.

A rapidly-expanding Highland timber products specialist has made a keystone appointment to its management team which will enable it to enhance its contribution to the sustainable trading environment of the sparsely-populated region.

Biomass supplier GMG Energy, which contributes significantly to the circular economy in the Highlands and the Northern Isles, has secured the services of a new Sawmill Manager at its eco-friendly plant in the Strath of Halladale in Sutherland.

Vasile Damian, 30, a joiner to trade and originally from Romania who has lived in Thurso for the last 17 years, will oversee the six full-time employees and production of more than 2,000 tonnes of timber a year in the £2 million turnover company, reporting to owner Malcolm Morrison.

He will also be responsible for the successful operation of a massive solar array on the roof of its production facility which recently was installed at a cost of £100,000 to reduce GMG’s dependence on expensive and polluting diesel generators for its energy-intensive activities.

The former foreman at Caithness- and Inverness-based windows, doors and kit homes specialist Norscot, said: “I am pleased to be joining GMG at a time when Malcolm is looking to upgrade and extend our product range.

“With our solar panels in place, our sawmill moving to optimum capacity, such that we will shortly see sawdust being used for brickettes, and our bio mass machine becoming fully functional, we will soon see the business becoming as self-sufficient as possible. That is the ultimate goal.

“We have invested recently also in new machinery to make more upmarket consumer-friendly wood products such as garden offices, cabins, pods and staircases which will use pine wood. Currently, we are only able to use spruce for outside products like fencing, posts and pallets.

“No one else in our locality is doing what we are doing so there is a lot of opportunity for the business. Our goal is to make the Caithness region aware of us and to opt for our locally manufactured, rather than shipped-in, products. We have just launched our online shop too, so it’s certainly an exciting time to be working at GMG Energy.”

Malcolm Morrison, Director of GMG Energy, said: “Everyone in the team is delighted that we have been able to attract a manager of such proven calibre. Vasile is very knowledgeable; he is attuned to the peculiarities of the area and he is very intuitive.

“At a time when we have been investing so substantially, he is taking on a great responsibility and we are sure he will rise to the challenge of making the company even greener and more environmentally sensitive than it already is.

“Vasile will be instrumental in driving towards our stated aim of ending fossil fuel consumption and becoming reliant on solar for 100% of our energy needs.”

As well as the solar array, GMG has invested £150,000 in state-of-the-art sawmill equipment which takes its larger timber and processes it into posts, rail, cladding and purlins, or structural roof members.

It has also recently spent in the region of £100,000 on timber treatment equipment which will open up new markets among construction companies and farm businesses which require treated and stress-tested products.

The resource-rich company last year completed strategic purchase of a substantial swathe of forest in the far north-east to protect future supply and increase its resilience to market shocks. The forest contains 21,000 tonnes of productive timber, very roughly equivalent to 90,000 tree-sized logs.

As a major plank of its business model, the company is committed to replacing every log of timber that it uses, and plants 10,000 new trees a year, which grow to maturity in 35 years. It far exceeded this target in 2021, planting in the region of 20,000 trees.


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