VERNON, British Columbia – Tolko Industries Ltd. is pleased to announce that the company is restarting its oriented strand board mill, located near High Prairie, Alberta.
The mill has been closed since 2008 when North American housing starts fell to a generational low, resulting in a loss of markets for oriented strand board. With markets improving and optimism that housing starts will maintain upward momentum, the decision has been made to restart the mill, with production expected to begin in the first quarter of 2018.
“We’re very happy to get this mill back up and running — it’s good news for our people and for northern Alberta,” commented Brad Thorlakson, President and CEO of Tolko. “We are confident that current improvements in market conditions are sustainable and that customer demand for Tolko oriented strand board products will remain strong.”
He added, “We would like to thank the Rachel Notley led Government of Alberta and Agriculture and Forestry Minister, Oneil Carlier, for the recent decision to grant a five-year extension to the existing Tolko High Prairie forest management area. This was key to the restart decision.”
Danielle Larivee, MLA for Lesser Slave Lake commented on the restart. “Forestry is a big part of our way of life in Northern Alberta, so it’s great to see that the Tolko mill will be creating jobs and supporting our region once again. It's wonderful to see this investment flowing back into our region, and I would like to thank Tolko and the province for their work on this forest management agreement that will help support families and industry in the High Prairie region.”
The mill restart has received strong support from Big Lakes County and the Town of High Prairie, and Tolko recognizes and expresses thanks to the local First Nations and Métis Settlements for their involvement and support of the process.
Reeve Ken Matthews of Big Lakes County commented, “Big Lakes County, after agreeing to a four-year phase-in taxation agreement, is pleased that Tolko Industries has decided to reopen the High Prairie mill. The County has worked alongside Tolko, other municipalities in the area, and the provincial government to ensure that Tolko returns to our area. The County is looking forward to the increased employment and the economic benefits of Tolko reopening.”
“I couldn’t be happier with this announcement,” said Linda Cox, Town of High Prairie Mayor. “We have worked hard to bring community groups together, to facilitate discussions and help position the Tolko mill for a restart. We look forward to the employment opportunities and economic benefits that the mill will offer.”
“This is an important announcement for our communities”, commented Chief Robert Grey of the Whitefish First Nation. “The restart of the mill will provide valuable jobs in the area, and create shared responsibilities on forest management and environmental protection on our traditional lands.”
When fully operational, the mill will employ approximately 175 people directly, support a contractor logging workforce, and generate many indirect employment opportunities in the community.
This is in addition to the 330 people currently employed at the Tolko High Level lumber mill and the 150 people currently employed at the Athabasca (Slave Lake) OSB mill. With the restart of High Prairie, Tolko will support over 1,500 combined direct and indirect jobs in rural communities in Alberta.
A listing of employment opportunities at the High Prairie mill and other Tolko operations is available at www.tolko.com.