Mining and use of oil shale to be based on interests of state

For the first time in Estonia, the draft development plan for the use of oil shale produced on the initiative of the Ministry of the Environment deals with the mining and use of one of the country’s most nationally significant resources, taking into account its effects and bearing in mind the state’s interests.

“Oil shale is Estonia’s national wealth, thanks to which we are able to supply ourselves with the electricity we need,” said Minister of the Environment Jaanus Tamkivi. “In other words, oil shale is a resource of strategic importance to the state, but until recently the state’s interests in its mining and use had not been set out.”


This led to a situation in which permits for the mining of almost 24 million tonnes of oil shale per year had been issued by 2005, with applications for the mining of an additional 26 million tonnes also being received. All valid applications had to be processed, and there was practically no legal basis for refusing to issue permits.


In March 2006 the Estonian parliament, the Riigikogu, approved an amendment to the Earth’s Crust Act calling a halt to the processing of applications for permits to mine oil shale until the endorsement of the national development plan for the use of the resource. Work on the development plan was then delegated by the government to the Ministry of the Environment.


“The plan is now complete and states quite clearly that oil shale must be used as efficiently and in as environmentally friendly a way as possible, with the state’s primary interest being the uninterrupted supply of electricity and heating energy to Estonia’s consumers,” Tamkivi explained.


This means that the best possible technology must be applied in the mining and processing of oil shale, and that both it and the natural resources that accompany it must be used in an economical way, producing as little negative environmental and social impact as possible. “We have to do everything we can to make sure that our oil shale lasts, because if it does it will ensure our energy security and sustainable development,” the minister said. “That is why we are also moving towards a gradual reduction in the amount being mined.”


The draft plan prescribes an annual mining limit of 20 million tonnes. As the permits that have been issued allow larger amounts of oil shale to be mined, the ministry reached an agreement with mining companies for the reduction of these amounts. In order for the maximum mining volume and the justifications for refusing to issue mining permits to be legal, the Ministry of the Environment produced a draft amendment to the Earth’s Crust and Sustainable Development Acts alongside the draft of the development plan.


The draft version of the National Development Plan for the Use of Oil Shale 2008-2015, its implementation plan, the strategic assessment reports on environmental impact and the amendments to the Earth’s Crust Act have been submitted for approval through the e-law channel. The Riigikogu will have the final word on both the development plan and the amendments to the act.


Source: Estonian Ministry of the Environment

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