A letter of concern has been sent to Estonian company Est-For, signed by a number of Estonian NGOs and by the Environmental Paper Network. The letter expresses concerns and seeks information about the planned Est-For biorefinery development, as there appear to be insufficient safeguards in place to prevent negative impacts on the environment. The risks we are concerned about are outlined in the letter, found here.

The Est-For pulp mill project in Estonia is a planned biorefinery that will produce energy and pulp, projected to launch production in 2022. If built, the Est-For biorefinery will produce an annual output of 700,000 tonnes of pulp, and consume 2.5 to 4 million cubic metres of wood per year, for many decades, an enormous amount in the Estonian context.

The EPN is a global coalition of more than 140 civil society organisations that share a Global Paper Vision. This vision includes a need for reduced paper consumption, increased paper recycling and more efficient use of existing sources of pulp, in order to avoid increasing pressure on our planet’s precious forests, such as those in Estonia.

The Environmental Paper Network and the Estonian NGOs are deeply concerned about possible impacts:

o Risks of pollution impacting the water quality of River Emajõgi and Lake Peipus.
o Risks to Estonian forests because of the additional timber demand for the refinery, which is very likely to harm biodiversity and reduce carbon stocks, and lack of any guarantees about certification of wood supplies.
o Inadequate criteria for the environmental impact assessment (EIA) given the scale of this project.
o Future risks that environmental regulations will be weakened to prop up such a large industrial operation.

Banks and other financiers should ensure the following set of safeguards is in place before considering proceeding with finance for this project:

o The Est-For pulp mill should only source wood with FSC certification;
o Water for the mill must be limited to a closed system, and any effluent should be at least as clean as the river’s water itself;
o An environmental impact assessment should be conducted according to high standards

“The increase the consumption of timber, the Estonian government must make sure that sustainable use of Estonia’s forests is assured, including approving the appropriate legal measures.

Recently, BankTrack a group focused on tracking investments, published a file on the Est-For Pulp Mill, advising investors to carefully scrutinise all the possible impacts, before to become involved with the project: