Tolko’s High Prairie mill reopens

Plant was mothballed for a decade

Richard Froese
For the Lakeside Leader

Tolko’s High Prairie oriented strandboard mill was due to resume full operations on Jan. 2, after being closed for 10 years.
“We have hired a total of 145 employees, spread across salaried and hourly roles throughout the mill,” says plant manager Doug Stangier. “We are still recruiting for a few maintenance positions, but we should have all the roles filled early January.”
Tolko announced in June 2016 that production was expected to start in the first quarter of 2018, as markets improved. At the time, Tolko projected the company would hire up to 175 direct employees and create 225 indirect jobs.
Tolko opened the mill in 1995, closing it in 2008 when North American housing starts fell to a generational low, resulting in a loss of markets for OSB. OSB is commonly used for sheathing in walls, flooring and roof decking for markets around the world.
The company welcomed its first load of logs on Sept. 14 of last year.
“We are currently seeing between 40 and 60 loads a day,” said Stangier before Christmas. “However, that number will increase significantly after the holiday season.” He added that mill production will increase through the ‘ramp-up’ process.
“We are targeting production of approximately 415 million square feet of 3/8-inch equivalent by year’s end,” he says.
That’s enough OSB to build 51,000 single-dwelling homes, Stangier says. The goal is to reach 700 million square feet.
The cost of running such an operation, Stangier says, is about equal to three medium-sized sawmills.
“Tolko has and will remain to be a major contributor to the region in terms of both economic and community prosperity. We look forward to being a big part of the community as we re-establish ourselves by continuing to offer employment opportunities as they arise.”
One of those opportunities comes in the form of an agreement Tolko signed on Oct. 5 with the Driftpile First Nation. It provides 15 – 20 full-time jobs in the log yard.

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