Closure, cuts at Tolko

A fibre shortage has forced the permanent closure of Tolko’s Quesnel sawmill and a shift reduction at its Kelowna operation.

Vernon-based Tolko Industries announced the moves Friday.

The Quest Wood sawmill in Quesnel will be permanently shuttered, and Tolko’s Kelowna mill will see a reduction from two shifts to one.

“This is a difficult but necessary decision,” CEO Brad Thorlakson said in a press release. “Quest Wood has been part of the Tolko family since 1981 and Kelowna since 2004 when we acquired Riverside Forest Products.”

“Unfortunately, we do not have enough economic fibre to keep all of our British Columbia mills running efficiently and productively. We knew that (annual allowable cut) 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.”

Thorlakson said HR teams are on site and will be providing support to employees at both mills.

“This is a business decision and does not reflect on the commitment or work of our employees at these two operations. They have made significant contributions to Tolko over many years, and we are grateful for their efforts,” he 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.”

Remaining Tolko divisions will continue operating on regular schedules.

The Quest Wood closure process will begin Aug. 2, affecting about 150 employees.

The reduction in shifting at the Kelowna mill is effective July 12 and will impact 90 employees.

The decisions will remove 250 million board feet from Tolko’s production in B.C.

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