Tolko Industries would like to have an answer sooner than later.
The company’s need to secure a wood supply in its efforts to reopen its OSB plant west of High Prairie was cited in a letter July 22 from the company to Bruce Mayer, assistant deputy minister, Forestry Division, Agriculture and Forestry. At stake is the future extension or renewal of Forest Management Area 9700033.
“We see a clear path to the restart of the OSB mill in High Prairie,” writes Tolko’s David West, manager, Stewardship and Tenures – Prairies. “It depends on a renewal of the FMA, and it depends on housing starts. We are more than cautiously optimistic about housing starts, much less so about the FMA.”
West adds Tolko needs a secure wood supply if any consideration is given to re-opening the plant. Simply put, if there is no wood, Tolko can make no product.
“We cannot finance a restart of our High Prairie OSB mill without fibre certainty,” writes West.
High Prairie town council and Big Lakes County have endorsed Tolko’s bid for an extension and/or renewal.
“In earlier discussions with [the Alberta government] on this matter you have suggested that we needed support from the town and the municipal district,” wrote West. “We have provided you with that support.”
West said July 28 that the FMA expires in May 2017 so time is becoming critical.
“To extend the renewal needs about 4-5 months to go through the parliamentary process,” says West. “Take five months off May and time is crucial.
“Could it be expedited? I hope so.”
Tolko is a bit leery of the process so far. The longer a decision is delayed, the more the company feels it might not get the FMA extension or renewal.
“It puts a certain degree of doubt into the plan,” says West.
Earlier, he wrote, “Tolko would characterize the uncertainty that Alberta has created by its reluctance to renew the Tolko High Prairie FMA as unfortunate, at best. While Tolko wants to invest in Alberta and create jobs, others are dismantling Alberta OSB assets and reassembling them in other jurisdictions.”
Tolko estimates the creation of 300 direct jobs in manufacturing and logging and an additional 300 indirect jobs if the plant re-opens.
“We see the creation of $50 million annually in local spending and high paying jobs,” says West.
He adds Tolko would be pleased to attend any meeting with the government where plans for the renewal of the FMA would occur in a timely manner.
“Behaving in good faith, Alberta should advise Tolko now that it does not intend to renew the FMA,” he concludes.
The government has committed to providing Tolko direction around the renewal or extension of the FMA by September.