In a way the mining of oil shale influences almost every person in Ida and Lääne-Viru County. Directly by working in oil shale processing company or indirectly by living in a landscape, which has changed beyond recognition as a result of the mining. The study tries to find out what are the socio-economic effects of oil shale mining and processing to local people and how the mining affects the development of the region.

„The focus is on the environmental harm when dealing with oil shale industry and mining. But socio-economic impact usually concerns every person directly and therefore the interest in such impact is high. The study offers an opportunity to assess the environmental impact of the oil shale industry from socio-economic point of view.“ – Katrin Pihor

The study found that Ida-Viru demographic processes are characterized by rapid population decline, a large number of older people, smaller part of young people than average and the lowest birth rate in Estonia. There is high net migration in this region which is also reflected in the employment in oil shale industry where workers mostly come from major cities of the region.

Very high unemployment has ruled in the area for a long time which exceeds the Estonian average two or three times. In this context, the oil shale industry has a very important role in the region as an employer, such as offering jobs to young professionals which could contribute to the deceleration of emigration of young people.

It was found that the region’s average wage growth is faster than in Estonia as a whole and the wages of the oil shale sector workers are higher than the regional average. Also the sector has stable labour relations. From entrepreneurship perspective, the restrictions of alternative land-use are important.

Environmental changes that have an impact on human health are considered to be an important factor in oil shale mining and processing. However, the general health indicators in Ida-Viru do not reflect significant differences from Estonian average, and therefore it cannot be said that there are more cases of different illnesses.

On the basis of the facts that were found, the study gives following recommendations:

  • More attention should be paid to the potential impact on employment and incomes than on the decisions which affect employment in oil shale companies.
  • Attention should be paid to the development of attractive environment in Ida-Viru County.
  • The share of environmental taxes which are channelled back to Ida-Viru County should be increased.
  • People should be more informed of the actions of oil shale companies which alleviate environmental damages.
  • Further studies should be carried out on the health effects of oil shale.
  • In cooperation with local authorities the territories of active oil shale reserves where the potential mining activity is planned in the nearest 30 to 50 years should be defined.