For the Lakeside Leader
Tolko Industries Ltd. has laid out its plan to re-open its oriented strandboard (OSB) mill in High Prairie in early 2018. Part of that is the harvesting plan, which the company presented at an open house on Aug. 17.
Tolko forester Joel Cornish told attendees the harvest plan was drafted in consultation with communities in the operations region.
“We’ve narrowed it down to a few areas,” he said.
Those include Whitefish First Nation, southeast of Snipe Lake, northeast of McLennan, Whitemud Creek area, south of Valleyview and west of Spirit River.
The harvest plan must still be approved by the provincial government.
As for the mill itself, production is expected in the first quarter of 2018.
“We’ll start in the fourth quarter (of this year) and bring in equipment,” said Tom Hoffman, Tolko’s manager of external and stakeholder relations. “It’s been nine years since the mill operated and it’s imperative to bring the mill up to production in a graduated progression to ensure we address all electrical, mechanical and through-put issues that will have arisen over that time.”
Also going on between now and then will be a lot of recruiting of employees, and things are looking promising.
“We’ve had overwhelming response for jobs from the local community, including former employees,” said HR advisor Bronwyn Dunphy.
The plan is to operate the mill 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will produce OSB, most commonly used for sheathing walls, flooring and roof decking. When fully operational, the mill is expected to employ 175 people directly, and 225 more indirectly.
Hoffman said Tolko has gotten a lot of support through its re-opening process from municipalities and First Nations and appreciates it.
Tolko opened the mill in 1995 and closed it in 2008 when North American housing starts fell to a ‘generational’ low. A listing of employment opportunities for the mill can be found online at www.tolko.com.