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Tolko announces sawmill closure in Quesnel, shift reduction at Kelowna

Softwood lumber is pictured at Tolko Industries in Heffley Creek, B.C., April, 1, 2018.
Softwood lumber is pictured at Tolko Industries in Heffley Creek, B.C., April, 1, 2018. The Canadian Press / Jonathan Hayward

A sawmill in Quesnel will be permanently closed, while another sawmill in Kelowna will undergo a shift reduction, Tolko Industries Ltd., announced on Friday.

Citing high wood costs and weak markets, the company said the closure process for Quest Wood sawmill in Quesnel will begin on Friday, Aug. 2.

The company said approximately 150 employees in Quesnel will be affected.

READ MORE: Canfor, Interfor announce temporary curtailments at its B.C. lumber mills

In Kelowna, the sawmill will undergo a reduction in shifts from two to one. Approximately 90 employees will be affected by the reduction, which will start on July 12.

“This is a difficult but necessary decision,” Tolko president and CEO Brad Thorlakson said in a press release.

“Unfortunately, we do not have enough economic fibre to keep all of our British Columbia mills running efficiently and productively. We knew that [allowable annual cut for timber] 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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Thorlakson said the announced layoffs will be “a hard day for many” and that the company will be providing support to employees at both mills throughout the transition.

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

“They have made significant contributions to Tolko over many years, and we are grateful for their efforts.

“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.”

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Quest Wood has reportedly been with Tolko since 1981, while the Kelowna sawmill has been under the company umbrella since 2004, when it acquired Riverside Forest Products.

Tolko said the two decisions will remove 250 million board feet from the company’s production output in B.C.

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“These decisions have been made after a long and detailed analysis and are necessary for the long-term prosperity of Tolko and are consistent with our commitment to sustainability,” says Thorlakson, adding that all remaining Tolko divisions would continue operating on their regular schedules.

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In April, two other lumber companies — Canfor and Interfor — announced that they would be temporarily curtailing operations because of low prices and high costs.

And in January, West Fraser and Conifex also said they would be curtailing operations for the same reasons.