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State looking for mining compromise with locals

Mining machinery.
Mining machinery. Source: ERR

A bigger part of mining fees could go to local governments where raw materials are located. Jõelähtme Municipality and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications will put together a set of rules to facilitate agreement between locals, mining companies and the state by year's end.

Jõelähtme Municipality is a true limestone bonanza with both the state and miners interested in the resource. While the snow-covered former and current quarries are no different to the eye, the noise of mining activity and dust make the difference clear if one lives next to the latter, "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Saturday.

"It becomes your daily reality. Mines opened for 30 or 50 years means that people our age will never see the end of mining activity there," said Jõelähtme Municipality Mayor Andrus Umboja.

Estonia needs at least 41,000 cubic meters of construction-grade limestone over the next 30 years, with quarries taking up nearly 500 hectares or 2 percent of the municipality's territory," Umboja said. The municipality proposes mining around existing quarries or under planned roads.

"We have agreed to limestone being mined from the edges of old quarries. We have surrendered a few dozen hectares to the state here and there," the municipality mayor said.

The ministry was tasked last year with evaluating mining locations suitability. Court cases over mining locations postpone access to resources for companies and the state. The ministry hopes to work with Jõelähtme Municipality to develop a legal mechanism to avoid going to court.

"To come out with possible amendments to existing regulations that would create more trust between local governments, residents, miners and the state," said Timo Tatar, deputy secretary general for the ministry.

The ministry is offering locals reparations – that a bigger part of mining fees ends up in the local budget.

"When it comes to raw materials of local significance, miners pay rights fees some of which end up in local government budgets. This is definitely one instrument we can use to boost the motivation of the local community if most of the fee would go to the local government," Tatar said.

The second item on the agenda will be gradual mining where mined areas could be recultivated while mining activity continues at the other end. State and local government working groups are set to meet again a few weeks from today.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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