Enefit, VKG seeking mining permits for new oil shale reserves

Estonia mine.
Estonia mine. Source: Jarek Jõepera/University of Tartu Natural History Museum

Both Enefit Kaevandused and Viru Keemia Grupp (VKG) are interested in mining new oil shale reserves in Ida-Viru and Lääne-Viru Counties. While Alutaguse Municipality has smaller reserves, mining companies are interested in mining 160 million tons of oil shale from fields located in Oandu.

Enefit Kaevandused wants to move via underground mining toward the Alutaguse Municipality village of Jõetaguse in order to mine some 3.4 million tons of oil shale reserves located there, regional Põhjarannik writes (link in Estonian).

While the 102-hectare area located along the Estonia mine's northern edge did not previously interest Enefit Kaevandus due to the small size of the reserves there, now that the mining at Estonia has reached the area, mining the small additional reserve would be worthwhile, and so the company has applied for a mining permit.

Alutaguse Municipal Mayor Tauno Võhmar told the paper that the municipality has no fears regarding the expansion of the mine, as according to current information, it should not give rise to any additional environmental disturbances; the only possible cause for concern for homes located closer to the mine may be vibrations caused by mining.

An environmental impact statement, which will among other things review the impact of mining on the nearby Kurtna Lakes, is expected to be complete by the beginning of next year.

VKG looking into mining in Oandu

VKG subsidiary VKG Kaevandused, in turn, has filed for a mining permit for the mining of oil shale in Oandu. The company is seeking permission to mine at six survey blocks where a total of 160 million tons of oil shale is located.

One concern is the fact that the reserves in four of the blocks in question are currently valued as being passive, i.e. not qualified to be mined, as the oil shale there has a low energy yield. The yield in these blocks falls between 29.8-33.9 gigajoules per square meter; reserves are considered active at yields of at least 35 gigajoules per square meter. The other two blocks have been designated as passive due to environmental restrictions.

Low energy yield isn't a concern for VKG Oil, however, as the company is already using technology that runs on low-value fine oil shale. In its mining permit application, VKG noted that the average indicators for four of the blocks in question, i.e. the value and energy yields thereof, is sufficient for the company.

The company plans to use the mined oil shale in the chemical industry, the production of shale oil, and as fuel for electricity production.

While VKG is the company applying for the permit, it would not mine the areas in question alone. Last April, VKG Kaevandused and Enefit Kaevandused signed a cooperation agreement for the development of a mine at Oandu according to which mining rights would be divided between the two companies.

According to VKG spokesperson Irina Bojenko, VKG would be able to mine one third of the reserves at Oandu.

"It is true that if the oil shale resources at Oandu are tapped, it would be divided between Eesti Energia and Viru Keemia Grupp into two thirds and one third, respectively," Bojenko told ERR.

She said that it is still too early to talk about mining, noting that many questions still remained open regarding the site at Oandu, adding that they would be answered by the already initiated environmental impact assessment.

VKG is applying for a 30-year permit for itself and Enefit. According to the application, the average annual mining limits would total a minimum of 5 million and a maximum of 15 million tons per year.

The Oandu site is located in Lüganuse and Alutaguse Municipalities in Ida-Viru County and Vinni Municipality in Lääne-Viru County.

Sirtsi nature conservation area is located on the site in question, dividing the survey area in half. Also located on the site are the Kaasiksoo wood grouse species protection site and the Koolma flying squirrel species protection site.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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