South Peace News
A major step was cleared Sept. 29 when the Government of Alberta granted a five-year forest management area extension to Tolko Industries under several conditions.
The decision paves the way for Tolko to begin planning to re-open the mill. Earlier, Tolko said they could not consider re-opening the mill without a secure timber supply.
Thomas Hoffman, Tolko’s manager, external and stakeholder relations, released an e-mail from the company Oct. 12 verifying the company has accepted the terms of the deal.
Tolko officials met with Alberta Agriculture and forestry July 7 to discuss a deal. Local municipalities such as the Town of High Prairie and Big Lakes County, Metis Settlements and First Nations, also provided input to the government on what they wanted to see happen in the future.
On Sept. 29, the Government of Alberta released its offer to Tolko.
“After due consideration of all factors presented, Minister [Oneil] Carlier has instructed department staff to prepare a request for cabinet to grant a five-year extension to the existing Tolko High Prairie FMA with a few added conditions, such as the re-opening of the mill,” wrote Dan Lux, executive director for the department. “If the mill is re-opened and all of the other clauses are met, the department will enter into negotiations for a 20-year FMA renewal.”
Hoffman’s Oct. 12 e-mail indicated Tolko was pleased.
“As we outlined in our discussions, Tolko requires a secure wood supply in order to re-open the mill,” wrote Hoffman. “We are optimistic that this commitment from the government will be the first step to achieving that goal.
“I want to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to you and the other members of your community for your support to reach this important milestone,” he added. “Additionally, we truly appreciate the Government of Alberta listening to our collective voices and having the vision to extend the FMA.”
Hoffman confirmed terms of the agreement, the most important being a re-opening.
“If the mill is re-opened and the other conditions are met, we will then enter into a 20-year FMA renewal negotiation.”
“Other conditions” include local employment opportunities.
Tolko had stated as late as July 22 that they needed a decision from the government on the future of the FMA.
“We see a clear path to the restart of the OSB mill in High Prairie,” wrote Tolko’s David West, manager, Stewardship and Tenures – Prairies on July 22, to Bruce Mayer, assistant deputy minister, Forestry Division, Agriculture and Forestry.
“It depends on a renewal of the FMA … we cannot finance a restart of our High Prairie OSB mill without fibre certainty,” he added.
High Prairie town council and Big Lakes County earlier endorsed Tolko’s bid for an extension and/or renewal.
The FMA was set to expire in May 2017.