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Softwood lumber is stacked in Madawaska, Ont. on April 25, 2017.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd . says it has begun producing and shipping building panels from the Chambord, Que., oriented strand board (OSB) mill it inherited with its recent $4-billion all-stock takeover of rival Norbord Inc .

The start of production from the mill shut down in 2008 comes as OSB prices reach record high levels thanks to strong housing and home renovation markets fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic’s work-from-home trend.

Norbord announced in December it would reopen the mill in response to customer demand and to offset the permanent closure of its mill at 100 Mile House, B.C.

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It said it had invested about $71 million to prepare the mill for eventual restart since buying it in 2016 and would spend about $94 million more to finish the project.

The mill was to employ about 120 people when fully operational with an annual production capacity of 550 million square feet (on a 3/8-inch basis). West Fraser says it expects the ramp-up to full capacity to take 18 to 24 months.

CIBC forest products analyst Hamir Patel said in a report that OSB pricing in the North Central region of North America had hit a record US$955 per thousand square feet, citing statistics by market watcher Random Lengths last Friday.

In February, Louisiana-Pacific Corp. announced a plan to restart production at the Peace Valley OSB Mill in Fort St. John, B.C., which was shut down in 2019 because of low prices at the cost of about 200 jobs.

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