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Location of billion-euro pulp mill to be defined no later than 2019

Aadu Polli, Margus Kohava, and Meelis Oidjärv.
Aadu Polli, Margus Kohava, and Meelis Oidjärv. Source: (ERR)

While the Ministry of Finance and Est-For Invest will most likely sign a cooperation agreement already in the coming weeks, the decision over the final location of the pulp mill will take more time. Investors are hoping to have it by 2019.

According to the head of the ministry’s planning department, Tiit Oidjärv, areas close to Tartu and Viljandi will be included in the planning process. Est-For Invest had earlier said that it would need to build the new plant in a location that had access to a river, was close enough to all necessary infrastructure, and also offered enough skilled staff.

Oidjärv said that no other areas outside the designated territory would be looked at.

He described the cooperation agreement to be signed as a contract that would “basically specify the roles of the two parties, how we are going to work together, and how the planning process will be funded”. Oidjärv also added that Est-For Invest would pay for the necessary consultants, which was one of the agreement’s critical points.

The contract would most likely be signed some time in the next weeks, and after that made public.

A work group of representatives of the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Finance, specialists of the local county governments, an expert to assess the effects of the pulp mill on the environment, and representatives of Est-For Invest would also be called, Oidjärv added. The work group would address all of the project’s planning stages.

On the way to the state’s planning exception for the new pulp mill, there were two important steps: the choice of location, and the eventual solution and plan to build the mill.

“The choice of location will hopefully be done in 2018 or 2019,” Oidjärv said. He also added that he couldn’t say yet when the necessary railway, road, and electricity connections would be ready.

“What I can say at this point is that we can start talking about the locations we are comparing by the end of this year, and as required by the Planning Act the different state agencies will then offer feedback about their preference,” Oidjärv added.

Investors: No names yet

Members of Est-For Invest’s management, Margus Kohava and Aadu Polli, introduced their own work on the preparations for the planning stage. Though Polli didn’t want to make any statements about investors just yet—it was too early for names, as there were no agreements yet. They were in negotiations with “several banks in the world”, Polli said.

“The current investors have promised funding up to the end of the planning stage,” he added.

The government decided on May 11 to support a planning exception for Est-For Invest’s pulp mill project. At a total investment volume of around €1 billion, the project is of historic proportions.

If realized, Est-For Invest believes the plant would employ some 200 people and process around 3 million cubic meters of timber a year. The plant’s life cycle is expected to be 30 years.

Estonia’s environmental organizations recently issued a joint statement pointing out the unsolved environmental issues of the plant. Among other things they pointed out that it is unlikely that a planning process following the usual guidelines would produce a detailed enough assessment of the mill’s effect on the local environment; see the related articles below the comments section for more.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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