Opportunistic businessmen could earn millions from Rail Baltic in mining scheme

Rail Baltica project (Ministry of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure).
1/22/2015 4:58 PM
Category: Economy

ETV's “Pealtnägija” has revealed a scheme to by-pass strict mining laws and allow people to dig up sand and other resources, used in construction, cheap. The scheme, which is still legal, could provide materials for the Rail Baltic track, resulting in dug-up landscape in some areas of the country.

The scheme itself is simple, with businessmen asking for permission from local governments to dig small lakes or ponds, selling the dug-up sand to construction companies, by-passing a host of legal requirements, such as permissions for more mining from ministries. It takes around three years to receive a proper mining permit, compared to a few months for a pond, not to mention tax benefits.

The profit for digging a 5,000 square meter pond could amount to 75,000 euros. Pealtnägija brings out many examples of two or four times larger lakes created. The reason given to local governments is fire danger, with the new lakes serving as a hydrants for firemen in case of forest fires.

Even larger construction companies, such as Nordecon, are joining the bandwagon. Nordecon, one of the country's largest construction companies, submitted documents to dig a 10,000-square-meter reservoir near the Tallinn-Tartu road. The Environmental Board saw through the plan and put an end to it.

Environmental ministry deputy secretary general, Ado Lõhmus, said the problem is well-known and the new legislation to regulate the issue is on the way. He said that as early as July this year, new legislation could be in force to make life difficult for that kind of business. However, it is not yet certain if it will stop the scheme from selling the estimated 11-15 million euros worth of sand and stone to the state for the construction of the Rail Baltic high-speed rail track.

J.M. Laats

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