Ministry, Mining Professor at Odds Over Phosphorite ({{commentsTotal}})

The Ministry of the Environment recently has said it has no plans to change its mind on a research and mining ban on phosphorite, prompting criticism from academic and mining expert Enno Reinsalu.

“There is no current pressure on the ministry to decide on phosphorite studies or mining and we have no resolve of our own on the subject as there is no guarantee that it would pose no threat to the environment,” the ministry's deputy secretary general Ado Lõhmus, not to be confused with Alo Lõhmus, the journalist who's opinion piece on the subject was published on ERR News last week, told ETV on Sunday.

Reinsalu, who heads the Department of Mining at the Tallinn University of Technology, said that mining technology that would leave only tolerable environmental damage can currently be developed, technology that would, in his words, leave water unpolluted and other resources undamaged.

Virgo Koppel, the head of the local municipality where the resource is found, said studies are needed for a more informed decision by the ministry as to whether to allow mining.

Although scientists have said that there is little knowledge on exactly how much phosphorite there is in the ground in Estonia, the ministry said that the studies conducted 25 years ago are still valid.

Alo Lõhmus put the amount at nearly 3 billion tons, worth a staggering 220 billion euros at today's prices.

Reinsalu said that the situation today is similar to having cancer, whereby a sufferer does not want to know that he or she has cancer, just as the state does not want to know if the resource is safe to extract.

The topic is potentially a huge political minefield, as Soviet plans to begin mining 25 years ago were met by fierce protests by locals, sparking what grew into Estonia's independence movement in the late 1980s.