Estonia has an average level of mineral wealth; however, there are only a handful of countries in the world where the Earth’s crust has been as immensely researched as ours.Mineral resources play almost as big of a role in people’s lives as do food, water and air. Using mineral resources provides employment for thousands of people in Estonia. Our everyday lives depend on our mineral resources: electricity and heating, production of building materials, road construction, horticulture, etc.
Not all mineral resources found in Estonia are mined, for example, due to their low efficiency, phosphorus, granite and graptolite argillite, which is known for its uranium concentration, are not mined. Oil shale (kukersite) and peat are used intensively along with the increasing demand for natural building materials (sand, gravel, limestone, clay, etc.).
Main mineral resources
Estonia’s most important energetic mineral resource is oil shale. Over 80% of the mined oil shale is used to produce electricity and heating. In addition, oil shale is used to produce fuel oil, petroleum coke, pitch, bitumen and other materials. Oil factories can only make use of large slates of oil shale with High Caloric Value. The mining takes place in North-eastern Estonia, mainly in Ida-Viru County and lately also in Lääne-Viru County.
The other mined mineral resource with considerable energetic value is peat. Highly decomposed peat is mainly used as heating material. Depending on the level of decomposition, peat can also be used in horticulture and agriculture. The mining of peat has varied from year to year, depending on annual precipitation. The main areas of peat mining are Pärnu Country (33%) followed by Tartu (17%), Ida-Viru County (15%) and Harju County (8 %). The percentage of mining peat in other counties is five or less.
The most diverse class of mineral resources are natural building materials (constructional natural resources). Due to the road construction and building boom, the mining of constructional natural resources has increased significantly since 2002. The main areas of mining constructional natural resources are Harju County (50%) followed by Jõgeva (10%) and Lääne-Viru County (9%). The percentage of mining in other counties is five or less.
The mining and using of mineral resources is regulated with the Earth’s Crust Act and the Mining Act. Other important acts concerning oil shale are, for example, the Ambient Air Protection Act and the Waste Act, which regulate the using of oil shale in combustion plants and oil production.