According to the National Audit Office, state-owned energy giant Eesti Energia illegally mined 900,000 tons of peat between 2009 and 2012.
Eesti Energia told Eesti Päevaleht today they did not mine the valuable resource intentionally, but the peat covered ground that was dug up for shale oil rock, adding that the actual quantity was half of the reported volume.
The quantity noted by the Audit Office is equal to what peat mining companies harvest annually, and Eesti Energia would have had to pay over a million euros in mining tax had it declared the removal of peat. The daily reported that the removed peat was used to fill old mines, wasting millions of euros worth of a resource Eesti Energia buys from official peat miners to partially fuel the Auvere power plant.
Maris Saarsalu, the head of the Earth's Crust Department at the Environmental Ministry, said environmental officials failed to notice the violation as licenses for mining shale oil in the area were handed to Eesti Energia before a new system of more rigorous checks was in place.
Peat is an accumulation of decayed partially vegetation or organic matter that can be burned for heat and electricity. Estonia has around 775 million tons of peat, mostly in the northeast and in Pärnu County, which has been used for energy production since 1918.