Alberta has a long history in developing engineered wood products – such as plywood, oriented strandboard, glulam and I-joists – but two High Prairie mills are making a bet that there will be increased demand for these products that are critical components in the construction market.

PROJECTS: High Prairie Forest Products and Tolko Industries Mill Upgrades VALUE ADD: Engineered Wood Products

Lee Barton, general manager of High Prairie Forest Products, says the improvements to the mill he oversees will make it “one of the most modern in North America” and “bring long-term stability to our employees, families, and the people of High Prairie.”

High Prairie Forest Products (a division of West Fraser Mills) is investing $55 million to modernize its High Prairie stud mill, which will boost its capacity from 86 million board feet to 180 million board feet. Studs are vital in wall construction as they carry vertical structural loads and are also used in non load-bearing applications such as partition walls.

The mill upgrade is scheduled for completion in March 2018 and the expansion includes a new modernizer and log in-feed, new canter line, new waste conveyors, and a second continuous kiln – the improved efficiencies of which will enable the facility to better withstand market downturns.

Also, more jobs will be created to supply increased volumes of fibre to the mill.

Meanwhile, Tolko Industries Ltd. is preparing for a re-opening in early 2018 of its High Prairie oriented strandboard mill after receiving $70 million in upgrades. When fully operational, the facility will employ 175 people directly, as well as create shared responsibilities for forest management with local First Nations and Métis settlements. A harvesting plan to ensure sustainable forestry activity in the region has been drafted in consultation with Métis and First Nation communities in the area, with one proposed activity area being Whitefish First Nation.

Situated about 370 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, High Prairie has a population of approximately 2,500 people and is part of the Lesser Slave Lake Economic Alliance (LSLEA) – one of Alberta’s busiest regions in the forestry sector.

“We’re hoping that demand for oriented strandboard will remain strong and allow the mill to operate for many years to come,” says Linda Cox, general manager of the LSLEA and former Mayor of High Prairie. “We look forward to the employment opportunities and economic benefits that both of these mills will provide.”