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Increase in oil prices breathes new life into Estonia’s oil shale industry

Oil shale mining.
Oil shale mining. Source: (Ants Liigus/Pärnu Postimees/Scanpix)

Both Enefit Kaevandused, the mining subsidiary of state-owned energy group Eesti Energia, and VKG Kaevandused, the mining subsidiary of shale oil and chemicals producer VKG, are planning on increasing output this year.

The Estonia mine has switched over to a seven-day workweek, which means that mining is now underway there 24/7. On Thursday, journalists were given an overview of the longwall mining technology which will allow the company to reduce mining costs, reported ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."

Ahti Puur, chairman of the board at Enefit Kaevandused, explained that the new technology would allow for a one-third reduction in the number of employees working a mine compared to previous technology. As output has increased, however, the increase in mining efficiency has not meant a reduction in the number of jobs.

"We believe we will stick with the current workforce at Enefit Kaevandus, which is approximately 2,300 employees," said Eesti Energia board member Andres Vainola. "If we compare with the most difficult period, i.e. during 2015, when we laid off nearly 350 people in the mines, then we have hired just under 100 to replace them yet have achieved pre-market decline production capacities. We do not currently plan on hiring more employees, however no layoffs are planned either."

As a listed company, Eesti Energia will publish the mining volumes of its mines in its annual report at the end of February. According to Vainola, however, last year’s mining values were approximately 10 percent greater than in the year before. In 2015, the company mined 15.5 million tons of commercial oil shale.

VKG’s Ojamaa mine is switching over to a six-day workweek as they are seeking to increase output from last year’s 2.3 million tons of commercial oil shale to 3.9 million tons this year.

A total of 500 people currently work at the Ojamaa mine, but the increase in production volume will allow for them to hire an additional 35 employees in February. The company hopes to create a total of 65 new jobs at the mine this year.

"We have never had so many employees working at the mine and we are indeed increasing our output," noted VKG board chairman Ahti Asmann. "When we reopened Kiviter, then it was largely those we had been forced to lay off that came to work [there], but there are also new people involved and more young people are entering the sector as well."

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla

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