Ministry stalling a right of use permit needed by VKG oil shale mine

VKG Ojamaa Mine.
VKG Ojamaa Mine. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

Estonian oil shale chemistry company VKG is preparing an €100 million investment to open its Uus-Kiviõli oil shale mine in 2026, while the plan has ground to a halt because Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Riina Sikkut has not granted the right of use for the future plant's substation.

VKG is currently using oil shale from its Ojamaa Mine, which is set to be exhausted in 2026-2027. Mining should, therefore, start in the new Uus-Kiviõli Mine in 2026 at the latest, Delfi reports.

Preparations are underway, and the mine's electrical linkup needs to be done by 2025. Because it takes 28 months to go from the tender to a ready substation, construction should start now but cannot as the substation lacks right of use, which can only be granted by the landowner, or the Estonian state in this case.

VKG wrote Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Riina Sikkut on Monday to ask why the company's request has not been approved and to meet with the minister. VKG CEO Ahti Asmann told Delfi that 1,600 of the company's employees could be out of a job should the new mine be blocked.

Minister Riina Sikkut is aware of VKG's plans to launch its Uus-Kiviõli Mine and that the company has secured a mining permit until 2049, while she personally believes the mine should not be opened.

"I have repeatedly said that considering climate targets and the transition taking place in Ida-Viru County, there is enough oil shale in existing mines and we should not open new ones in Estonia," Sikkut commented.

The minister believes that Ida-Viru County's oil shale industry should gradually be replaced with more environmentally friendly alternatives sporting greater value added and promises the state's aid in the form of new jobs and retraining. But Sikkut plans to reply to VKG this time.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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