What Are The Major Natural Resources Of Estonia?

A large pile of oil shale ash in Estonia. Oil shale is usually burned to produce electricity.
A large pile of oil shale ash in Estonia. Oil shale is usually burned to produce electricity.

The Republic of Estonia is a Northern European country bordering Latvia and Russia, as well as the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. The country’s primary language is Estonian and it is spoken by over 68% of the population. The Republic of Estonia has a low population of just over 1.3 million people making it one of the least populated nations within the European Union. The country is regarded as developed with a high-income economy, and its small population enjoys perks such as free healthcare and education. One major contributing factor to the accelerated growth of Estonia which has one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union is the abundance of natural resources. The major natural resources in the country include oil shale, sea mud, construction sand, lake mud, and construction gravel.

Oil Shale

Oil shale is one of the crucial natural resources in Estonia, and about 1.137 million tons is mined annually. The country has an abundance of oil shale reserves found mostly in the northeastern part of the country, and Estonia’s oil shale industry is one of the most robust in the world. Oil shale is a type of rock that is rich in organic material, which is processed to extract shale oil. Shale oil can be used in place of crude oil however its production cost is higher than that of crude oil. The oil shale reserves of Estonia produce the bulk of the country’s electricity, about 90% which is pivotal in other production sectors of the economy. Typically the oil shale is mined from open pits and shipped to locations where it is burned to produce electricity. With the commercialization of crude oil in post World War II era, most countries abandoned mass exploitation of oil shale except Estonia and Chile, and this industry continues to grow. Over 80% of oil shale used around the world is produced in Estonia. Estonia itself uses oil shale for cement production in addition to producing electricity. Oil shale is also used in a broad number of industries including bricks making, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, glass, and glue among many others.

Sea Mud (Medical)

Sea mud deposits in Estonia are found at the southern region of the country. Production is about 1.356 million tons. This type of mud is soft and saturated with water and usually found in places with estuaries. Sea mud is purported to have healing properties especially for skin problems, and mud pits found naturally are sought by people all across the world for these reasons. Estonia produces sea mud used in health spas and the process involves taking a “mud bath” to rejuvenate the skin. This practice began as a fad by people seeking natural remedies to the myriad of skin ailments and is now a worldwide treatment recommended by natural health practitioners. Sea mud is usually used in its natural state in baths however in some cases other treatments such as steam baths may accompany the process.

Construction Sand

Estonia also produces construction sand. Sand is composed of rock granules and mineral particles and is used across the world as a construction material. Excavation or mining of sand is done on the surface by use of heavy machines after which it is loaded on trucks and transported to construction sites to make mortar or factories to manufacture concrete. Production of sand in Estonia is over 5862.23 million cubic feet and it is produced in almost all regions of the country. There are many types of sand across all regions of Estonia including quartz and aragonite. The demand for sand continually increases since it is a primary component in the production of concrete especially in a rapidly growing nation like Estonia. Other types of sand have a wide array of applications in Estonia such as making aquariums, artificial reefs, and glass production. Construction sand is used in making concrete, but the increase in demand is a growing concern since it is a non-renewable natural resource. Geologists have shown that diminishing sand reserves, especially construction sand, could lead to an illegal market for the resource in response to sudden scarcity. In recent years, manufactured or industrial sand has been created for use in construction, however, this sand differs from natural sand regarding angular structure.

Construction Gravel

Reserves of construction gravel mined in northern Estonia are approximately 32,800,000 million cubic meters. Gravel is made of rock fragments. The size of these fragments is the basis for classification of various types of gravel some are tiny while others are as big as boulders. Gravel is formed as a result of weathering of rocks which is then deposited through the action of water to create gravel deposits which are then mined. However, the process of weathering and erosion of rocks does not always produce enough gravel to meet human demand and in such cases rocks are crushed to create granules of gravel. Construction gravel is a vital component with various uses in Estonia, especially in road construction. Gravel is used as a surface material in many roads especially in areas with little traffic movement like rural areas. Gravel is used with sand for these roads.

Lake Mud

Lake mud is similar to sea mud in its use although it is extracted from lakes. Mining of lake mud is done in shallow levels of lakes in Estonia as well as deposits on the lake shore, and the mud is made up of soil surrounding the lake. Production of lake mud for medical purposes in Estonia stands at 1,133,300 million tonnes. In addition to medical uses, it is also used in the production of fertilizer due to its organic and nutritional content for crops however production of lake mud for fertilizer is only 170,900 tons across the country.

Other Natural Resources in Estonia

Estonia has other natural resources for use in specific industries. These include ceramic clay, peat, limestone cement, blue clay, and granite. Exploitation of natural resources in Estonia is to increase the country’s GDP which puts the livelihood of its citizens first however there are problems associated with the extraction of these resources. Environmental pollution is the main problem in this case, and therefore the government of Estonia should put measures to promote production in a way that does not drastically affect the environment.


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