Commitment to the pursuit of excellence in all that we do.
Who we are
NorSask Forest Products is owned by the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) and operates in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. Not only is it the largest First Nations-owned sawmill in Canada, profits generated support economic development, social programs, employment and infrastructure in the nine First Nations communities represented in MLTC.
Our sawmill is one of the few First Nations-owned sawmills in the world and we have remained in continuous production due to our ability to offer reliable employment, through many downturns in our industry. Currently, we employ approximately 100 full-time employees.
We produce high-quality SPF (spruce, pine, fir) stud lumber sold in Canada, the United States and overseas. The site consists of a sawmill with three log breakdown lines, a wood yard, and four dry kilns. The mill’s production capacity is currently in excess of 140 million board feet of lumber annually.
Through our woodlands management team, Mistik Management Ltd, we sustainably manage 1.8 million hectares of boreal forest and we are committed to stewardship of the environment. Mistik is the licensee in a perpetual forest management agreement with the Province of Saskatchewan and is certified to the standard of the Forest Stewardship Council. For more information about Mistik’s certifications and services to us, please visit Mistik.ca.
NorSask is committed to maintaining its success for the long term benefit of its First Nations shareholders.
Dedication to the development of each employee.
Define and exceed customer expectations by providing exceptional customer service.
Ethical and environmentally responsible conduct of our individual and corporate activities.
Parson and Whittemore, a New York firm that owned Prince Albert Pulp Mill built the Meadow Lake Sawmill. They operated the sawmill as a satellite of the pulp mill, with its primary function to supply softwood chips, a by-product of the milling process, to the pulp mill in Prince Albert.
The Province of Saskatchewan acquires the wood product and mill assets of Parson and Whittemore.
The Province sells the Prince Albert Pulp Mill to Weyerhauser and continues to own and operate the Meadow Lake Sawmill.
Worried that the sawmill would be sold to an investor who would divest its assets, the employees established a company called TechFor Services Limited and sold shares to raise money to buy the mill. At the same time, the Meadow Lake Tribal Council engaged with Techfor Services Limited and came alongside the employees in a 50/50 partnership. Eventually, Millar Western Industries became a 20% owner in NorSask with MLTC retaining 40% and Techfor Services Limited retaining the remaining 40%.
The partners negotiated a Forest Management License Agreement (FMLA) with the Province and began operations as NorSask Forest Products. This license gave NorSask the right to harvest both soft and hard woods within the forest management area. However, the sawmill used softwood conifers only (spruce, pine, and fir), so an important part of the FMLA was finding a user for the hardwood, mostly aspen. By bringing in Millar Western which opened a hardwood pulp mill in Meadow Lake, NorSask met this requirement of the FMLA. That pulp mill is now owned by Meadow Lake Mechanical Pulp.
Our Annual Report from 1997 refers to this period as The Turnaround Years. We invested millions in modernizing the mill and in 1992 the community response to increased production brought about a new approach to forest management. Following Elders’ meetings, co-management boards were organized to combine traditional knowledge with modern science and technology in managing the forest resource. Co-management has been absolutely integral to NorSask’s success.
Production more than doubled from 40 to 87.5 million board feet annually. In 1994, 250 board feet of lumber were recovered from each cubic metre of wood brought to the mill. This represented a 30% increase from the 195 board feet recovered in 1988. This improvement was attributed in large part to significant investment in computerized milling technology – a winning strategy that NorSask has continued to build on in the intervening years.
NorSask received an ABEX award in recognition of its sound business practices.
Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) acquired 100% ownership of NorSask and the company has since achieved consistent profitability and solid growth.
The protracted US housing market downturn and the global recession had a severe impact on sawmills throughout North America. Many sawmills in Canada ceased operations. NorSask was the only studmill in Saskatchewan that maintained continuous operations throughout this extended economic downturn. NorSask’s survival during this period was a result of focused commitment from the shareholders of the sawmill and the hard work and creativity of the employees. Ongoing lumber production throughout this difficult period allowed NorSask to ensure ongoing service to its highly-valued customers throughout North America.
NorSask has been in operation since 1971 (almost 50 years). Over that time there have been ongoing capital upgrades to the sawmill that ensure ongoing production of quality lumber. Since 2013, there have been millions of dollars invested in capital upgrades to the sawmill that include a refurbished log infeed system, upgraded scanning technology on canter lines, upgrades to equipment controls software, a refurbished planer, a new lumber auto-grader and finishing line, new kilns and a variety of other improvements that will ensure that NorSask keeps producing quality lumber products into the future.