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Tolko permanently closing Quest Wood mill in Quesnel

Citing a wood shortage, Tolko announced Friday it will permanently close its Quest Wood sawmill in Quesnel this summer, putting 150 people out of work.

The company will also eliminate one shift at its Kelowna sawmill, affecting 90 employees there.

“This is a difficult but necessary decision,” said Brad Thorlakson, President and CEO, in a news 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 AAC (allowable annual 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.”

The Quest Wood closure process will begin on Friday, August 2. The reduction in shifting at the Kelowna mill is effective on July 12.

Tolko’s human resources staff were on-site Friday and 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,” he said. “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.”

Representatives from Tolko’s employee and family assistance program are also available on-site and by phone to assist impacted employees. This service will be made available to employees over the coming weeks to help them with any emotional issues and with financial and career planning.

“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,” said Thorlakson who concluded by saying that all remaining Tolko divisions would continue operating on their regular schedules.

The shut down comes just a week after Conifex Timber announced it is temporarily curtailing operations at its Fort St. James, British Columbia sawmill for four weeks and its Mackenzie, British Columbia sawmill for three weeks, due primarily to continued high log costs and lumber market conditions.