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Merritt mill closure costs city 200 jobs

September 23, 2016 9:18 A.M.
(Tolko Industries)

Tolko Industries is permanently closing its Nicola Valley mill, putting more than 200 employees in Merritt out of work as of mid-December.

CEO Brad Thorlalkson said the closure results from a drop in the Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) as the mountain pine beetle salvage effort winds down.

Workers were informed of the decision Thursday, Sept. 22.

“Making the decision to close an operation is never easy,” he said. “Following the recent reduction in the Annual Allowable Cut as a result of the completion of the Mountain Pine Beetle harvest, an extensive review of the wood supply for all of our southern Interior operations was conducted. Based on this review, we have determined there is not enough timber to supply all of our mills. This has resulted in the decision to permanently close our Nicola operation.”

Thorlakson noted that the closure of the mill will result in the removal of 250 million board feet of capacity from the lumber market. However, he offered assurance that Tolko Industries — which his family has owned since 1956, remains well positioned for future success. 

“We are focused on making decisions that ensure our long term success. As a company, we are very well positioned due to our geographic and product diversification.”

“Today we have issued notice to employees, and we are working through the details of a transition package,” said Mike Harkies, executive vice-president of solid wood. “We anticipate full details to be available to employees the week of Oct. 10.”

Tolko purchased the Nicola Valley operation in 1987. The operation currently employs 203 people.

In a presentation to the TNRD Thursday, representatives of the Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association sought support for measures it feels are necessary to present further Interior mill closures.

In a submission the Steve Thomson, minister of lands, natural resoures and forest operations, the ILMA is calling on the province to champion growth of high-value specialty manufacturing and sustaining small and medium-sized independent mills.

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