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HomeNews100 Mile HouseTolko Announces Permanent Closure of Quesnel Sawmill

Tolko Announces Permanent Closure of Quesnel Sawmill

Quest Wood in Quesnel will permanently close in August 2019 due to an economic fibre shortage affecting 150 employees.

Tolko Industries Ltd. President and CEO Brad Thorlakson said this is a difficult but necessary decision.

“Quest Wood has been part of the Tolko family since 1981,” he said in a news release Friday.

“Unfortunately, we do not have enough economic fibre to keep all of our British Columbia mills running efficiently and productively. We knew that AAC reductions were coming in British Columbia due to the devastation caused by the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic. The curtailments announced today are sooner than anticipated due to uneconomic log costs, weak lumber markets, and the catastrophic impacts of wildfires.”

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Tolko will also be reducing its Kelowna sawmill from two shifts to one on July 12, 2019 affecting approximately 90 employees.

Both decisions will remove 250 million board feet from Tolko’s production in British Columbia.

“This is a business decision and does not reflect on the commitment or work of our employees at these two operations,” Thorlakson said.

“We will be working with a number of agencies to help people transition to new employment, and we will do everything we can to provide opportunities at other Tolko divisions to minimize the impact on employees and their families.”

Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said he is saddened by Tolko’s announcement and that government has offered support to Quesnel.

“I understand that Tolko will provide support to employees at both mills throughout the transition and that representatives from Tolko’s Employee and Family Assistance Program will work to assist impacted employees. Staff from the regional economic development branch of my ministry and staff from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction will work with Tolko and the community to coordinate the delivery of provincial support programs. We will also work with the federal government to ensure supports are made available to affected workers,” Donaldson said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, the problems facing Tolko are not new. They have been mounting for the past several years. Tolko has experienced increasing fibre supply shortages in Quesnel as the mountain pine beetle epidemic ended and the volume of beetle-killed timber declined. This fibre shortage was exacerbated by the impacts of the 2017 wildfire season and weakening lumber markets.” he continued.

“While the most recent closure will most acutely impact Quesnel, the declining supply of beetle-killed wood has been a factor on the Interior timber supply for the last few years. Successive governments, the forest industry and most Interior communities have known for the past two decades that some impacts on Interior sawmilling capacity were inevitable in the wake of the mountain pine beetle epidemic. The industry accelerated harvesting to take advantage of beetle-killed forests, knowing full well that the newly available timber supply was finite. In fact, industry consultants Jim Girvan and Murray Hall predicted closures several years ago.”

“It is for just that reason that last month our government invited forest company CEOs to come together to work collaboratively with other companies, First Nations, local governments and union executives to develop local visions –- unique visions for industry competitiveness in each timber supply area. Some companies, including Tolko, expressed a strong interest in doing so. We will be successful in addressing the challenges facing the forest industry only by working together and finding solutions that work for everyone.”

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