New mill in Prince Albert promises forestry jobs for Sask. First Nations

Start-up of the proposed facility is targeted for 2023 with construction start targeted for 2022 — following approval of timber allocations by the province

The province approved timber allocations on Wednesday that will allow One Sky Forest Products Ltd. (One Sky) to move forward with a proposed new oriented strand board (OSB) mill in Prince Albert. 

One Sky’s mill is expected to create more than 700 forestry sector jobs in northern Saskatchewan and the Prince Albert area — where most of the timber needed for the facility will be sourced — with promises to hire a predominantly Indigenous workforce.

The province is allocating most of the timber needed for this project, while the remaining balance will be secured by the company through agreements with First Nations, other mills, and private landowners. 

“Forestry is northern Saskatchewan’s largest sector and supports nearly 8,000 jobs and hundreds of businesses,” Energy and Resources Minister Bronwyn Eyre said.  

“The One Sky project will help achieve the ambitious goal in our Growth Plan to double the province’s forestry sector by 2030 and further strengthen Saskatchewan’s economy.” 

The Government of Saskatchewan allocates timber through the Ministry of Energy and Resources under the Forest Resources Management Act.  

“We are extremely pleased with today’s announcement from Minister Bronwyn Eyre awarding One Sky Forests Products and our partners the fibre tenures necessary to move our project forward,” One Sky founder and Chair of the Board Brian Fehr said.  

“We have been working with our Saskatchewan investors and First Nations partners for over a year to get to this point and are eager to move to the next phase of project development. We thank the Government of Saskatchewan and look forward to developing this important project for Prince Albert, our First Nations partners and the people of Saskatchewan.”

Current partners include Peak Renewables Ltd., local investors and 12 First Nations represented by Montreal Lake Business Ventures, Meadow Lake Tribal Council together with Big River First Nation, and Wahpeton Dakota Developments. 

“Montreal Lake Business Ventures has been involved in this process since the beginning, and we are very excited about today’s announcement,” Montreal Lake Business Ventures CEO Robert Fincati said.

“This OSB facility will bring tremendous economic spinoffs to the community and will be a significant employer, not just for Montreal Lake, but for all Indigenous communities in the area. This is a very exciting step in our history, and we look forward to working together with our partners in moving this forward.”

The company said it is in a strong position to meet global market demands through “strategic partnerships, competitive pricing and the optimization of forest lands.”

The new facility will be located relative to major markets with rail and road infrastructure available.  One Sky said it will produce the “most environmentally friendly product on the market.”

Saskatchewan’s growing forestry sector is supported by abundant ecosystems that cover more than half of our province,” Environment Minister Warren Kaeding said.  

“We welcome sustainable developments and will work with industry partners to ensure that our forests continue to be well managed, healthy and sustained over the long term.”

The North American residential construction industry is forecasting a decade of growth, One Sky will enter the market producing performance-rated OSB sheathing, which is a preferred wall, roof and sub-floor sheathing material. 

OSB is a type of engineered wood similar to particle board, formed by adding adhesives and then compressing layers of wood strands together. 

The material is considered especially suitable for load-bearing applications in construction. It is now more popular than plywood, accounting for the bulk of the structural panel market in North America.

The $250 million One Sky mill will have a capacity of 600 million square feet of the product annually, requiring approximately 845,000 cubic metres of timber. 

In 2020, more than $1.1 billion worth of Saskatchewan forest products were sold, an almost 30 per cent increase over the previous year. This timber allocation will also support the growth of other, value-added manufacturing in the forestry sector in the province.

“As an investor in the One Sky Forest Products OSB facility, Wahpeton Dakota Developments looks forward to contributing to the creation of new jobs and business opportunities in the Prince Albert region,” Wahpeton Dakota Developments Chair Cy Standing said.

“We are thrilled to be investing in a facility that will create added economic opportunities to Saskatchewan as it manufactures a durable product that is in demand locally, nationally and internationally.”

Start-up of the mill is targeted for 2023 with construction start targeted for 2022. The project is described by One Sky as a “green, shovel-ready initiative” that can create jobs “during and post-COVID.” 

“The One Sky Forest Products OSB facility represents a significant opportunity for Indigenous ownership, participation, and employment in a stable Saskatchewan manufacturing business,” Meadow Lake Tribal Council Chief Richard Ben said. 

“The Meadow Lake Tribal Council is pleased to be part of this strategic growth in the forest industry. This represents a once in a generation opportunity for Indigenous ownership by the 12 Saskatchewan First Nations that are currently invested.”

The company said contracting opportunities for businesses in the region will be available during construction as well as in the ongoing operation.

“This unique project and opportunity for Indigenous ownership will result in long term benefits for First Nation partner communities,” Big River First Nation Chief Jack Rayne said. 

“For Big River First Nation, the opportunity to participate in mill ownership is the obvious next step on our path to creating economic benefit for our community. Big River First Nation is confident this partnership will lead to increased productivity in our province and will contribute to local economies. It is a great move forward.”

The company is also sourcing fibre from more First Nations near Prince Albert with an aim for there to be “significant equity investment and ownership” by Indigenous communities.

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