Sudden boom in Ida-Virumaa’s oil shale mining
Eesti Energia and Viru Keemia Grupp (VKG) were planning to raise the amount of oil shale mined this year, which would bring with it longer working weeks as well as new jobs, local paper Põhjarannik wrote on Friday.
While the oil shale industry was in crisis in 2016, VKG laid off more than 100 workers of its mining operation in Ojamaa, and only 2.3 million tons of shale were mined, the company is planning to mine 3.9 million tons in 2017, which would beat the current record, set in 2015, by more than half a million.
This still wasn’t the limit, as the company’s management confirmed to Põhjarannik. VKG is planning to increase the amount processed to 4.2 million tons in 2018. To be able to mine as much, the company needs more workers, which it is already making efforts to hire. While previously some 500 miners worked for VKG in Ojamaa in its best days, the company expects their number could actually rise to 535.
To deal with the sudden increase in volume, the company is switching to six-day working weeks at its Ojamaa mine.
VKG needs to mine more shale because on top of its three new Petroter shale oil plants, it has reactivated its Kiviter oil plant, a factory it had previously shut down because of the low global oil price. Also, where VKG used to buy its raw materials from Eesti Energia as well, that source has now dried up.
Eesti Energia’s subsidiary Enefit is also planning to increase its production. The rising price both for electricity and oil made this sensible, the company found. Enefit mined 0.9 million tons of oil shale in November last year, a new monthly record. The company’s total mining volume for 2016 won’t be made public until Eesti Energia’s annual review in February.
Enefit’s Estonia mine was working seven days a week when the new record was reached, and apparently has been running all week since the beginning of January as well.