Est-For Invest's pulp mill at the Emajõgi river, Estonia

This so-called ‘biorefinery' would consume a quarter of Estonia’s wood supply and pollute the country’s second largest river. Opposition is strong, with support from the City of Tartu and from all over the world.


The Estonian government has decided to pursue the controversial investment to build a pulp mill on the shore of the Emajõgi River in Estonia’s southern part despite complaints by local residents and the municipal authorities.(2).  The Estonian "government deemed it right to continue with the next round of studies, which is how we'll get answers and then there are also arguments whether or not to continue with the planning process," Jakob Aab, Estonia’s Minister of Public Administration, told local broadcaster ERR.(2). The project is estimated to be worth about €1 billion, and it is devel-oped by Est-For Invest.

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Basic Data
NameEst-For Invest's pulp mill at the Emajõgi river, Estonia
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Specific CommoditiesPaper
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Est-For pulp mill project in Estonia is a planned "biorefinery" that will produce energy and pulp, projected to launch production in 2022. It would have a production capacity of up to 700,000 tons of pulp annually, which would require an input of three million cubic meters of pulpwood and wood chip each year; an enormous amount in the Estonian context. The project developers state that the project would source timber from "existing wood flow", however forests in Estonia are already overexploited... (1). Wood supply would primarily come from within Estonia, with additional sourcing from Latvia or Lithuania if necessary. The project requires an investment of EUR 1 billion.

The investment group, Est-For Invest OU (Est-For), was established in 2016. Its owners include forest and wood-processing companies AS Lemeks, Caspar Re OU, Ivard OU, Kaamos Group OU, OU Combiwood and OU Tristafan. In January 2017 Est-For Invest submitted an application to the Ministry of Finance to initiate the planning process for the mill, with the potential location in Emajõgi river basin.
Project Area (in hectares)100
Level of Investment (in USD)1,231,391,371
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Company Names or State EnterprisesEst-For Invest from Estonia - The company that maked proposal for the pulp mill.
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Finance

Ministry of Public Administration

City of Tartu), strongly against the project (6).
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersEesti Metsa Abiks

Estonian Fund for Nature.

Environmental Paper Network (EPN).
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Soil erosion, Noise pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Air pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Strengthening of participation
Alleged corruption (4)
Development of AlternativesJoint statement by forest experts about the need to stop Irresponsible Development of Est-For Pulp Mill

Elbiku, Estonia (3). 25 April 2018

We call on the Estonian government to stop the environmentally and socially dangerous Est-For mill project. We are particularly concerned that:

The mill would consume around 3.3 million cubic metres of wood, more than a quarter of the total national timber production, yet Estonian forests are already exploited beyond their capacity for natural regeneration.

The mill would consume 1.2% of the Emajõgi river flow and then release this as effluent.

The citizens of Tartu and their representatives have clearly stated they do not want a mill of this size due to the impact on their region.

We are dismayed to discover that the Estonian government has turned a deaf ear to the plea from the City Council of Tartu and its citizens to stop the planning process.

Estonian forests have a priceless value for the country’s citizens, for biodiversity and for the global climate. They deserve to be protected from intensive extraction of wood for paper, timber and biomass.

Protecting the Estonian forests would be the best way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Estonia’s independence and democratic governance.

This statement is issued by forest experts from 25 NGOs from Europe, Africa, America, Indonesia, China, Nepal, India, Australia and New Zealand.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Opposition is strong and the project might be scrapped.
Sources and Materials

(2) Estonian government confirms €1BN pulp mill investment. Pulp Paper News. Jaroslaw Adamowski - 11 Apr 2018
[click to view]

(6) March 12, 2018. City Fights Against Pulp Mill Threatening Estonian Forests. By Nick Huisman.
[click to view]

(5) International NGOs come together to challenge the Est-For 'biorefinery' 18 May 2018
[click to view]

(1) Bank Track, About Est-For Pulp Mill
[click to view]

Media Links

In Estonian. The agreement between Est-For Invest and RMK (State forest management centre) could go against the laws.
[click to view]

(3) Environmental Paper Network. Joint statement to stop Irresponsible Est-For Pulp Mill

by Peter Gerhardt | May 1, 2018 | EPN-International
[click to view]

(4) Estonian journalists point to possible conflict of interest in planning billion-euro pulp mill (journalists have discovered an advance deal between the country’s State Forest Management Centre (RMK) and the project developer Est-For Invest on providing RMK’s pulpwood for 15 years).
[click to view]

Other Documents

Thousands protest in Tartu in support of Emajõgi River 19.05.2018
[click to view]

The proposal look of the pulp mill Made by Est-For Invest
[click to view]

Other CommentsA new pulp mill is planned in Tartu, Estonia. The mill will produce 700,000 tonnes of pulp and it will consume around a quarter of the total country’s timber production. This increase threatens to be the fatal stroke for Estonian forests, which are already being exhausted by the increasing rate of commercial logging. The concerns are not only for forest, biodiversity and carbon storage, but also the pollution to the Emajõgi River. Environmental organisations, citizens and scientists raised their concerns about the mill which would impact dramatically on the environment, and support the City Council of Tartu which has demanded unanimously to scrap the project.

An international meeting in Elbiku, Estonia, forest experts from 25 different NGOs coming from Europe, America, Asia, Africa and Oceania, signed a statement in support of the Estonian civil society.(3)
Meta Information
Last update15/06/2018