Mining in Estonia

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Department of Mining, Tallinn University of Technology; e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected] Tallinn, Estonia. Introduction. Estonia is ...

Taiex Workshop on EU Legislation as it Affects Mining

Mining in Estonia – a Development Towards the EU Ingo VALGMA, Veiko KARU Department of Mining, Tallinn University of Technology; e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected] Tallinn, Estonia

Introduction Estonia is mining country thanks to its Oil shale resources. Compared to other countries the amount of reserves and production capacity in total is not high but it is high per area or per number of habitants. Today the most difficult task is to find compromise between needs of economy and fears of mining influence.

Mineral resources In addition to the main mineral resource Oil Shale there are sufficient reserves of limestone & dolostone, peat, sand, gravel and clay. Phosphorite and granite are occurrences in today’s economical situation in spite of the fact that phosphorite has been extracted for 70 years in former times. Sea mud

16000000 Resources

Constructional gravel


Constructional gravel sand Lake lime


Decorative dolomite Construction dolomite

thousand tonnes

10000000 Phosphorite Technological limestone and limestone for cem Construction limestone


Infusible and ceramsite clay


Cement and ceramic clay 4000000

Sand for technology and ceramics Construction sand


Peat dust Peat for fuels and fertilizers

0 1992

Oil shale 1993












2005 Sapropel


Figure 1 Estonian mineral resources

Timeline The main milestones in Estonia’s relatively short mining history are: 1916- Oil shale mining began 1960- Eastern technology was applied 1991- Western technology was introduced 2002- Environmental restrictions became limiting factors for continuing with new mining areas 2004- Estonia joined EU 2006- Tests and planned test of high-selective mechanical mining

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Taiex Workshop on EU Legislation as it Affects Mining Technology Most of Estonia’s minerals are mined in surface mines. Still half of oil shale is mined underground showing future trends of increasing underground mining capacities. The main used mining technologies are: Open cast (strip) mining Room and pillar mining (longwall mining is finished, shortwall continuous mining is potential) Truck and excavator operations Milling in peat fields Lately new technologies have been introduced and tested. These are: Surface miner tests in dolostone, limestone and oil shale Hydraulic equipment in many applications Mobile technology in cutting, loading and hauling Long boreholes tests and high roof (3,5m instead of 2,8m) in underground oil shale mining (4m instead of 1,5m) Inclined shaft for mobile equipment for underground mining Mechanised roofbolting Railway removal, underground buses for service Loading with LHD-s replacing armloaders

Figure 2 LHD-s have replaced armloaders in underground oil shale mining Introducing high productive machinery has resulted in less number of equipment and higher availability. In surface oil shale mining the main change has been: Using rippers (100t class) instead of drill and blast breaking Loading with LHD-s instead of mechanical shovel Blasting with modern blasting technology (Emulsion BM, Dynamit Nobel, Orica) resulting less vibration, even size, safe operations. Draglines have been renovated with engines changes, renewing electrical system In Limestone mining the main changes have been: Using mobile crushing and screening Hydraulic hammers LHDs, hydraulic excavators Service and maintenance have been changed in direction of direct dealers service resulting higher availability and less employees Technology and its developments in Estonia (limestone; oil shale) are described in more details in other articles in this book.

Capacity Capacity of Estonia’s mineral production is currently depended on domestic need. Most of the export potential is related to peat, oil shale oil and limestone production.

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Taiex Workshop on EU Legislation as it Affects Mining The most important capacity is oil shale- stabilised on 13 Mt/year level. Others are highly dependent on increase in construction industry and limited by environmental and legislative restrictions.


Sapropel Annual production Sea mud


Constructional gravel sand Decorative dolomite

thousand tonnes

20000 Construction dolomite Technological limestone and limestone for cement


Construction limestone Cement and ceramic clay


Sand for technology and ceramics Construction sand


Peat dust

20 05

20 04

20 03

20 02

20 01

20 00

19 99

19 98

19 97

19 96

19 95

19 94

Peat for fuels and fertilizers 19 93

19 92


Oil shale


Figure 3 Annual mineral production, t/year Estonia’s power industry bases on oil shale as seen on next figure. Practically all electricity (95%) is produced from oil shale. 30000

Motor gasoline, thousand tons

Energy consuption

Gas/Diesel oil, thousand tons


Shale oil, thousand tons Heavy fuel oil, thousand tons 20000

Natural gas, million m³ 15000

Wood waste, thousand cubic metres Firewood, thousand cubic metres


Peat-briquette, thousand tons Peat, thousand tons 5000

Oil shale, thousand tons 0 1991

Coal, thousand tons 1992






1998 years







Figure 4 Energy consumption in Estonia

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Taiex Workshop on EU Legislation as it Affects Mining Small scale mining In comparison with large scale oil shale and previously phosphorite mining, limestone, sand, gravel and peat could be called small scale mining from production amount or technology point of view. Limestone is mined in quarries, softer materials in pits and peat is milled in peat fields. Still many problems are similar for limestone and oil shale, since similar structure of rocks. For both drilling and blasting or difficult mechanical breaking is needed.

Figure 5 Typical limestone quarry with mobile equipment

Mining science and research in Estonia The centre of mining education, research and science in Estonia is Department of Mining of Tallinn University of Technology. ( Most of Estonian mining engineers have been graduated there and most of State and industrial mining research is done there.

Figure 6 Power Engineering faculty of Tallinn University of Technology where Mining Department is located

Community The Estonian Mining Society (EMS) connects 175 mining professionals and 27 mining related companies (Nov. 2006) who are interested in developing Estonian mining industry which is closely related to state economics, environment and mining education. The aims of EMS are to deal with and solve Estonian mining problems, distribute mining information, organize seminars and conferences. EMS supports students in their studies and encourages students understanding of the industry and commitment to the industry. EMS is representative organization to Government on behalf of the mining industry. EMS student members are important and active part of the organization. Student members have excellent opportunities to meet mining industry professionals and get wanted job in the minerals industry. Additional information about Estonian Mining Society could be found on

Environment From environmental point of view Estonia is in good position, not having acidic reactions and having neutralising alkaline limestone massive in all mining areas. Thanks to this, reclamation is easily done with help of the same equipment as mining itself. Water is purified in settling ponds and does not require additional chemical treatment. For underground mining, the main concern id related to stability of the room and pillar mining area. Today Oil shale is equalised with coal in Europe from

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Taiex Workshop on EU Legislation as it Affects Mining environmental and research point of view. For Estonia large areas of abandoned mines are specific thanks to small thickness of mineral (2,8m oil shale, 1m mined phosphate rock)

Interest For the world, most interesting mining subjects in Estonia are oil shale oil and fossils in limestone (Ordovician sediments, fossils, cross-sections, cliff).

Figure 7 Fossils in limestone

Acknowledges This paper is part of ESF Grant 5913 Usage of mined out areas.

References: 1. Statistical database of Statistical Office of Estonia. 2006 2. Valgma I. Oil shale mining in Estonia and Russia. Encyclopedia of life support systems. EOLSS Publishers Co. Ltd, Oxford UK, 2000 3. Valgma, I. Estonian oil shale resources calculated by GIS method // Oil Shale. 2003. Vol. 20, No. 3. P. 404-411. 4. Valgma, I. Geographical Information System for Oil Shale Mining – MGIS. - Tallinn Technical University. Tallinn, 2002.

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