Scientist: Prospecting for Phosphate Rock Is Risk-Free ({{commentsTotal}})

The debate over phosphate rock goes on. After a scholar recently said the mineral could again become a strategic resource, the presumptive new coalition announced it will not consider mining or even mapping the reserves. But another scientist says studies would be possible without harming groundwater.

ERR rekindled the debate, asking Tartu scholar Raul Eamets ahead of an April "vision conference" how Estonia might finally join western European in terms of affluence. His answer: iron, uranium and phosphates - Estonia leads Europe in proven reserves of the latter.

On Sunday, current Environment Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus told ETV that the new coalition will not allow mining of phosphate rock, which can contribute to algae blooms and other environmental problems in the already stressed Baltic Sea. She said prospecting was also out of the question if it could hurt groundwater.

But today a scientist said the danger of the latter is overinflated. "Investigations that could pollute groundwater ended in 1988," Tallinn University of Technology geologist Enno Reinsalu told

Back then, the explorations were done in the Pandivere uplands of north central Estonia. But the current proposed site is farther east, on the other side of the Kunda River. The underlying rock in the latter area is different, not as permeable, and there is less agriculture in the area.

Reinsalu says phosphate prospecting involves boring a 8 cm diameter core into the deposit. The hole is later filled with gravel or concrete and sealed. The reason Soviet-era phosphate exploration caused pollution was pure negligence, Reinsalu says: the backfill was sold off and the hole was left open to the elements.

In today's Estonia, geological investigations can only be conducted under close watch of the Environmental Board. Reinsalu says the risk of environmental contamination was willfully exaggerated by pro-independence forces for political purposes. 

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