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Minister: VKG pulp mill must be more modest in size

Environment Minister Madis Kallas (Reform).
Environment Minister Madis Kallas (Reform). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

A planned pulp mill to be located in Ida-Viry County should be of more modest proportions than originally drawn up, due to the realities of the timber industry at present, Environment Minister Madis Kallas (Reform) says.

The pulp mill will be operated by the Viru Keemia Grupp (VKG), who are also a major player in the oil shale sector. The company should manage its expectations here, he said.

Kallas told Vikerraadio's "Uudis+" show Thursday that he: "Also met with VKG last week, when we discussed exactly the same topic. My message was that if they are banking on an additional volume of felling in Estonian forests, I don't see how this can be achieved."

"The area of discussion now should be whether this investment, the pulp mill, could be constructed on a somewhat smaller scale, which would be more in line with the Estonian forest volumes, then we could obtain this investment, since of course the jobs it would bring would be invaluable and the investment itself would be too," he added.

VKG has announced its €800-million planned pulp mill, to be located in Lüganuse Municipality, would be ready by 2027, and should provide the state with €250 million in tax revenue annually, as well as creating 1,200, well-paid, jobs.

Kallas emphasized that since the current felling volumes are already too large, in his opinion, the project's owners cannot expect that felling volumes in Estonia will be further increased in the future.

"If this still requires additional felling volumes, then I don't see that it is possible to guarantee it in Estonia. Even today's levels are not viable, not without making Estonia poorer in terms of nature and species richness," Kallas said.

"This was also a message to them: That it is not viable to carry it out with a somewhat smaller volume of wood raw materials, making it very difficult to believe that such a mill could be viable in Estonia," the minister went on. 

"However, as an investment, in terms of jobs creation, it would certainly be very appealing, and hopefully it will be possible to realize on a somewhat smaller scale," Kallas added.

The increase in the need for pulpwood and woody biomass has also been cited by environmentalists as a possible obstacle to the construction of the plant.

Pulp mills also require large quantities of water for their operation; in the case of Ida-Viru County, subterranean water and surface-level pools and channels resulting from the oil shale mining industry are one potential source.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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