Alar Saluste, project manager Ragn-Sells OSA

Unlocking the potential of Ahtme's old ash mountains

Ragn-Sells has successfully completed drilling operations at Ahtme's old ash mountain, laying the foundation for a research project by the University of Tartu. The project aims to map critical raw materials in approximately 40 mountains of deposit ash in Ida-Virumaa.

08 Aug 2023

As well as for the drilling at Eesti Energia’s ash mountains, recent drilling at a mountain owned by the Viru Keemia Group (VKG) in Ahtme yielded good results, generating interest in European business and government circles. These findings confirmed that the VKG Ahtme ash mountain contains abundant calcium, magnesium, iron, aluminium, silicon and other critical raw materials identified by the European Union.

- If we are serious about creating a sustainable society, we have to use the raw materials we have already extracted. Therefore, we need to see these ash mountains as valuable raw material reserves that can be successfully extracted and reused, benefiting the Estonian and European economies, says Alar Saluste, project manager Ragn-Sells OSA.

Although an accurate overview of the size of Estonian raw material reserves is currently unavailable, it is estimated that nearly 40 mountains in Ida-Virumaa hold over 1 billion tons of various industrial and mining wastes, including approximately 600 million tonnes of oil shale ash.

- Recycling this solid waste has a significant positive environmental impact as it covers more than 30 km2 of territory, with pollutants leaking into groundwater from multiple waste mountains, says Saluste.

Recognising the European Union's goal that 40 percent of critical raw materials are to come from domestic production by 2030, Ragn-Sells believes the hills of Ida-Virumaa present an opportunity to establish a new industry, replacing the declining oil shale energy sector.

- If efficiently recovered, the 1 billion tonnes of industrial waste in Ida-Virumaa could meet Europe's material needs for 10-20 years, explains Saluste.


Cooperation strengthens competence in the circular economy

- In order to create a new circular economy industry in Ida-Virumaa, it is utterly important to have a thorough understanding of how much and what kind of raw materials are actually hidden in specific Estonian mountains of industrial and mining waste, says Kalle Kirsimäe, professor of geology and mineralogy at the University of Tartu.

The project, "Recycling of solid industrial waste deposited in Ida-Virumaa," is being prepared with the support of the Fair Transition Fund, and several companies, including Ragn-Sells, have expressed interest. The project also explores competitive technological solutions for various industries, such as chemicals, fertilisers, and building materials. Collaboration with foreign experts may supplement Estonian expertise.

Once the project commences, all available information on waste mountains will be gathered, consolidated in a map application, and supplemented with chemical and mineral composition studies. Priority will be given to cases with the greatest lack of knowledge and the most promising materials. The project aims to explore various utilisation possibilities, engaging foreign experts when necessary.



Ragn-Sells has created a subsidiary company R-S OSA Projekt OÜ for the shale ash beneficiation project. Almost 3.5 million euros have already been invested in the project. The partners of the project are the University of Tartu, TalTech, Eesti Energia, the joint institution of EAS and KredEx, the Archimedes Foundation and the international companies Tarkett and Gealan. Read more about the project: