Tolko lays out plan to re-open in High Prairie

Sign shows the entrance to Tolko High Prairie mill.

Richard Froese
South Peace News
Tolko Industries Ltd. has laid out its general development plan to re-open its oriented strand board (OSB) mill in High Prairie in early 2018.

A preliminary harvesting plan for the next five years was presented at an open house Aug. 17 at Peavine Inn and Suites.

“The proposed harvesting plan has been drafted in consultation with Aboriginal, Metis and general communities,” says Joel Cornish, Tolko operations forester.
“We’ve narrowed it down to a few areas.”

Proposed areas include Whitefish First Nation, southeast of Snipe Lake, northeast of McLennan, Whitemud Creek, south of Valleyview and west of Spirit River.

The plan must be approved by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

Tolko invites citizens to review the map and respond to the proposed areas.

For information, visit the Tolko website at tolko.com.

Comments on the proposed development plan may be emailed to joel.cornish@tolko.com.

Production at the mill is expected to start in the first quarter of 2018.

“We’ll start in the fourth quarter and bring in equipment,” says Tom Hoffman, Tolko 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 and stepped progression to ensure we address all electrical, mechanical and through-put issues that will have arisen over that time.”

Tolko hopes the mill will start to produce in 2018 in the second quarter, he says.

“What’s crucial now is the installation of new equipment and recruiting local employees to bring the mill in line,” Hoffman says.
“The mill will operate 24-hours a day, seven days a week, producing OSB, most commonly used for sheathing in walls, flooring and roof decking for markets around the world.”

When fully operational, the mill will employ up to 175 people directly and 225 indirectly.

“We’ve had overwhelming response for jobs from the local community, including former employees,” says Bronwyn Dunphy, Tolko human resources advisor.

Tolko appreciates the work of local municipalities and First Nations that has helped the company to re-open the mill.

“We’ve had fantastic support from the Town of High Prairie, Big Lakes County and First Nations towards the re-opening,” Hoffman says.
“It’s a large project and we appreciate the support.”

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 oriented strand board.

A listing of employment opportunities at the High Prairie mill is available at www.tolko.com.

Plans to re-open the High Prairie Tolko mill were presented at an open house Aug. 17. Left-right, are layout contractor Shane Krupinski, Tolko human resources advisor Bronwyn Dunphy, Tolko operations forester Joel Cornish and Jason Berry, owner of Buck Forestry Consulting.

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