Oil shale mine halts work after 12 miners test COVID-19-positive

Mining in Ida-Viru County (picture is illustrative).
Mining in Ida-Viru County (picture is illustrative). Source: Jarek Jõepera/University of Tartu Natural History Museum

State-owned energy firm Eesti Energia is halting operations in one of its oil shale mines for a week, following 12 miners being diagnosed with COVID-19.

The closure starts from Friday, and will affect more than 700 employees at Eesti Energia and related companies.

A total of 18 miners at the site in Ida-Viru County were recently tested for coronavirus, with 12 returning positive.

Andres Vainola, manager of Eesti Energia's mining arm Enefit Kaevandused, said that protecting public health was the main factor in the decision.

"As a precautionary measure, we will direct all Eesti Energia staff in East-Viru County, whose work set-up allows for it, to work from home," Vainola said. Naturally remote working is not likely to be viable for miners, but the manager added that precautionary measures used at the peak of the pandemic would be reinstated.

Transport of shale oil, refined from shale mined in Ida-Viru County and used, among other activities, in fueling power stations, will not be affected at this time, Vainola went on.

Following one mine employee testing COVID-19-positive on August 19, 17 of this individual's close contacts were identified and tested, with other contacts of all the employees who tested positive since then being tracked.

Eesti Energia is to decide on further steps next week.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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