After a long conflict with local communities and conservationists, it looks like the sun is setting on the proposed Est-For pulp mill in Estonia. The Estonian government has announced its decision to “initiate the termination” of the national designated spatial plan for the mill. The project was strongly opposed by Estonian NGOs, by local communities and by the people. The municipality of Tartu, the city where the pulp mill was planned, had started a court case against the government.
The new pulp mill was planned to produce 700,000 tonnes of pulp and consume 3.3 million cubic meter wood, around a quarter of the total country’s production, posing a serious threat to Estonian forests, which are already over-exploited. The mill was proposed near the second largest Estonian river, Emajõgi, and will not use totally chlorine free technology (TCF), nor a closed water cycle, putting at risk local water ecosystems which are already under severe stress. The mill would have discharged a huge amount of effluent (1.2 % of the river flow), containing chloride, potassium, carbon, calcium and sulphate compounds, threatening the credibility of national plans to reduce the river pollution to meet European Union requirements. Last month, the global Environmental Paper Network released a discussion document to highlight these impacts and to ask investors to carefully scrutinise this project.
In recent weeks a number of protests by local communities made clear that the project is highly unpopular. International attention and concern was growing as well. After repeatedly declaring its full support to the Est-For pulp mill project, the government has decided to discard it, at least for now.