Politicians advocate domestic mining, processing of critical minerals

Riina Sikkut.
Riina Sikkut. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Critical raw materials are minerals that are needed for the modern economy to work. Oil and gas are also found in the crust of Estonia, and the political parties in the Riigikogu want a thorough look at the country's mining potential.

Several political party representatives stressed that the next government should try to clarify the current mining regulations.

Heiki Hepner (Isamaa) said that mining operations must be considered early on in planning. "As with any planning document, community engagement and mitigating measures are necessary. The only activity missing from the detail planning of local governments is mining," Hepner said. "We have to establish a minimum distance between a mine and a residential neighborhood."

Minister of Economy and Infrastructure Riina Sikkut (SDE) said that it is crucial for Estonia to at least partially assure its own raw material supply security. "As the Estonian crust contains critical raw materials, knowledge about them must be promoted. When we reach a decision regarding mining, we will also determine how to minimize environmental damage and compensate communities. There are three mineral-related topics: oil shale, construction minerals, and critical raw materials," Sikkut said.

If we decide to extract important strategic minerals, national leaders will need to determine whether the minerals will be mined by public or private firms.

Taavi Aas (Centre) said that if we chose to develop mineral resources, we should export them; Estonia must process the resources locally.

Kristen Michal (Reform), chair of the Economic Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, said that while other countries are interested in Estonia's natural wealth, it is important to understand how to use the resources for the country's benefit. It is in Estonia's best interest to maximize the value of its resources, Michal said.

Martin Helme (EKRE), vice-president of the Riigikogu, supports governmental control of mineral resources, "If we want to be among the five wealthiest nations, we must appreciate our natural resources. Strategic assets should be managed by the government."


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Editor: Mari Peegel, Kristina Kersa

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