South Peace News
Tolko Industries Ltd. has announced it will re-open its oriented strand board mill in High Prairie in early 2018.
Production is expected to start in the first quarter of 2018 as markets improve and optimism that housing starts will maintain upward momentum, says a news release from Tolko dated June 20.
“We’re very happy to get this mill back up and running, it’s good news for our people and for northern Alberta,” says 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.”
An exact re-opening date was not confirmed.
When fully operational, the mill will employ about 175 people directly, support a contractor logging work- force and generate many indirect employment opportunities in the community.
The news has received strong support from Big Lakes County and the Town of High Prairie. Tolko recognizes and expressed thanks to the local First Nations and Métis Settlements for their involvement and support during the process.
“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,” Reeve Ken Matthews says.
“The county has worked alongside Tolko, other municipalities in the area, and the provincial government to ensure that Tolko returns to our area.”
Matthews and High Prairie Mayor Linda Cox say their communities look forward to the increased employment and the economic benefits of Tolko reopening.
“I couldn’t be happier with this announcement,” Cox says.
“We have worked hard to bring community groups together, to facilitate discussions and help position the Tolko mill for a restart.”
First Nations also welcome the news.
“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,” Whitefish First Nation Chief Robert Grey says.
“This is an important announcement for our communities.”
Tolko originally opened the mill in 1995 before it closed in 2008 when North American housing starts fell to a generational low, resulting in a loss of markets for its product.
Tolko is also grateful for government support.
“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,” Thorlakson says.
He adds that was a major step in the decision to restart the mill.
Lesser Slave Lake MLA Danielle Larivee says the government is happy to be a partner.
“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,” Larivee says.
“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 familes and industry in the High Prairie region.”