Mining companies also pay environment costs for oil shale left underground
In addition to the oil shale they extract, mining companies also pay environmental resource charges for the amount they leave underground, which due to the extraction process can no longer be used in the future.
According to the Estonian Environment Agency, while 9.2 million tons of oil shale were mined in 2021 and 10.7 million tons in 2022, the environmental charges paid by the companies in the industry were for much larger quantities. "While in 2021, (environmental) resource charges of €24.7 million were declared for the extraction of 12 million tons of oil shale, in 2022, resource charges of €81 million were declared for the extraction of 13.8 million tons," the Environment Agency said.
Ahto Eesmäe, head of the Environment Agency's fees department, explained the difference in the figures. "The difference between the amount of oil shale subject to environmental fees and the amount of oil shale extracted is due to the fact that mining companies also pay for an amount of oil shale, which is not removed from the ground," said Eesmäe.
"In oil shale mines, around 30-40 percent of the oil shale is left unmined and cannot be used in the future. Due to technical reasons, it becomes unusable." According to Eesmäe, in 2021, 2.8 million tons of oil shale was left unusable, while in 2022, the figure was 3.1 million tons.
According to Tiit Rahe, chief mineral resources specialist at the Environment Agency, the total remaining oil shale reserves in Estonia's mining areas amounts to 562 million tons, of which 479 million tons are minable.
There are 18 mining areas in Estonia with valid environmental permits for the extraction of oil shale. The permits are divided between four companies: Enefit Power AS (11 permits), OÜ VKG Kaevandused (4 permits), Kiviõli Keemiatööstuse OÜ (2 permits) and AS Kunda Nordic Tsement (1 permit).
Taking into account all the active oil shale deposits and mines in Estonia (Narva/Sirgala, Estonia, Ojamaa, Põhja-Kiviõli and Ubja), there is a total residual oil shale reserve of approximately 272.8 million tons. According to information provided by the Estonian Land Board's Geoportal, 237.5 million tons of this can be extracted.
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Editor: Michael Cole