Tolko will not reopen High Prairie, Alberta, OSB mill without evidence of sustainable housing recovery, official tells meeting, acknowledges decision to restart nearby Athabasca OSB mill in Slave Lake had raised hopes, created 'huge amount of angst'

Wendy Lisney

Wendy Lisney

Aug 29, 2013 – Industry Intelligence

LOS ANGELES , August 29, 2013 () – Four officials from Tolko Industries Ltd. have met with council officials and residents in High Prairie, Alberta, to discuss the future of its OSB mill near the town, according to a report by the South Peace Valley News.

Tolko VP of environment and forestry Bob Fleet said the company wanted to have the conversation because the company imagined it had created a "huge amount of angst" in High Prairie when it announced plans to reopen its OSB mill in nearby Slave Lake. 

Tolko officially announced plans to reopen its Athabasca OSB mill in Slave Lake in February 2013, leading to speculation that the Vernon, British Columbia-based company would make a similar announcement for the High Prairie mill. That mill closed in 2008 when the U.S. housing market collapsed, the Peace Valley News reported. 

During the Aug. 21 meeting at the town office, Fleet and his colleagues maintained that they could not predict future housing markets and demand for OSB.

Tom Hoffman, manager of external and stakeholder relations, said Tolko wanted to restart the mill, but needed clear evidence to justify reopening it. He said the housing market would have to be at a sustainable level before Tolko considered a reopening.

The possibility of selling the OSB plant was also discussed, with Councilor Brian Holmberg asking if Tolko would consider selling the mill if the housing market crashed.

Councilor Barry Sharkawi said the community could not wait any longer, and was "sinking in the sand." Fleet acknowledged that Tolko had not been diligent about keeping the community informed with the current situation and its future plans for the mill. He apologized on Tolko's behalf and said the company would provide the town council with quarterly reports and updates.

The primary source of this article is the South Peace News, High Prairie, Alberta, on Aug. 26, 2013.

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