National Audit Office: Opening quarries is not planned on long-term basis and supervision of mining is insufficient

Toomas Mattson | 5/22/2009 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 22 May 2009 - The National Audit Office is of the opinion that supervision of mining is insufficient and many companies have extracted more natural resources used in construction than permitted. The state has also not paid any attention to maintaining the quarries after mining is finished, which means that more quarries are being opened than maintained and this means that the area of land spoilt by quarries is increasing.
Supervision over extraction of natural resources used in construction has been insufficient. The extraction data submitted by extractors is usually not checked, which means that some companies have indicated lower extraction volumes in their reports. Cases like these cause damage to the environment, the state does not receive some of the fee for mining rights, the data of natural resources on the natural resources balance sheet show the remaining stock as bigger than it actually is and fair competition between mining companies is not guaranteed.

The area of landscapes spoilt by mining is increasing, because new quarries are opened, but there are only a couple of cases where old ones have been maintained. Establishment of the terms and conditions for maintaining quarries has been badly organised, there is no supervision and no national coercive measures are implemented. It is a widespread practice where extractors apply for an extension of their extraction permit before its expiry and for a permit to expand the quarry, and once these have been received the deadline for maintaining the quarry will be postponed, even though it would be reasonable to maintain the part of the quarry where mining has finished.

The audit showed that the state has not looked into the more distant future when issuing extraction permits for extraction of natural resources used in construction. No decision has been made yet on the state level as to how long the stock of natural resources used in construction should last and the Minister of Environment sees no need for this in his response to the audit report.

In the audit, the National Audit Office draws the attention of the Ministry of Environment to the fact that the interests of companies have been primarily considered when new quarries are opened and in practice, the establishment of mines is decided with the grant of a geological exploration permit. Local people can express their opinions about the suitability of the mine in the course of the environmental impact assessment. The audit showed that irrespective of any problems that have been found, an extraction permit has never been refused on the basis of the results of an EIA, because an alternative location can no longer be considered. Therefore, quarries are not always opened in places where the impact of mining on the residents and the environment would be the smallest.

The responses given by the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications confirm that the ministries have effectively performed no supervision over extractors. Since responsibility for supervision has been spread with effective legislation, then ministers pass problems on to the area of administration of another minister.

The Ministry of Environment is primarily responsible for the problems in the area, but the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has also been superficial about the performance of its tasks as the organiser of the mining sector. In his response to the audit, the Minister of Environment notes that he is aware of the problems associated with mining and agreed with more than a half of the recommendations made by the National Audit Office.
Whilst not underestimating the importance of economic development, the National Audit Office notes that the use of non-renewable resources must be planned for the long term. The National Audit Office believes that prospective quarries should be shown in plans in order to consider the interests of the state and its residents and that alternative locations for quarries should be found in the course of the planning process considering the smallest impact on the environment and people. The National Audit Office also advises improving supervision of extraction and quarry maintenance.

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The National Audit Office audited the work of state agencies in organising extraction of natural resources used in construction: supervision of extractors, keeping account of natural resources, deciding on the opening of new quarries, assessment of the impact of extraction and guaranteeing maintenance of quarries.
Since the natural resources used as construction raw materials are non-renewable, then it is important to use them in such volumes that do not threaten the economic development opportunities of future generations. The irreversible impact of extraction on the environment must also be considered. For example, it is impossible to restore lost habitats or changed water regimes to their former conditions.


Toomas Mattson
Communication Manager of National Audit Office
Telephone: 6400 777
Mob: 51 34900
E-mail: toomas.mattson@riigikontroll.ee

  • Posted: 5/22/2009 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 8/28/2015 9:26 PM
  • Last Review: 8/28/2015 9:26 PM

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