Tolko targets Jan. 2 as full start-up

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Tolko Industries is on target to re-open its High Prairie oriented strand board mill.

“The mill is poised to start a 24/7 operational schedule beginning Jan. 2, 2018,” plant manager Doug Stangier says.

It would enable the company to produce OSB, most commonly used for sheathing in walls, flooring and roof decking for markets around the world.

“We have hired a total of 145 employees spread across salaried and hourly roles throughout the mill,” Stangier says.

“We are still recruiting for a few maintenance positions, but we should have all roles filled early January.”

Tolko announced in June 2016 that production was expected to start in the first quarter of 2018 as markets improve and optimism that housing starts will maintain momentum.

At the time, Tolko projected the company would hire up to 175 direct employees and create 225 indirect jobs.

Tolko first 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 OSB.

The company welcomed its first truckload of logs on Sept. 14 to get the plant in gear.

“We are currently seeing between 40-60 loads a day, however, that number will increase significantly after the holiday season,” Stan- gier says.

Initially, the mill accepted 20-30 loads a day.

“As we go through the ramp-up process, our production will increase,” Stangier says.

“We are targeting production of approximately 415 million square feet of 3/8-inch equivalent by year’s end.”

Or, enough OSB to build 51,000 single-dwelling homes, he says.

“We are targeting 700 million square feet of production when we are finished moving through our start-up curve,” Stangier says.

“The monthly operating cost of an OSB plant is equal to about three medium-sized sawmills, to give you some sense of the economic benefit.”

He says the mill will play a significant role in the local economy.

“Tolko has and will remain to be a major contributor to the region in terms of both economic and community prosperity,” Stangier says.

“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.”

A local Indigenous community has become a key partner in the operation. Driftpile Cree Nation signed an agreement with Tolko on Oct. 5 to operate the logyard service, to unload logging trucks, deck the logs and feed product into the mill. It created 15-20 full-time jobs for the Indigenous community.

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