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First ‘measurements’ on the path to amber exploration

2014-09-26

Environmentalists, geologists and researchers gathered at the Lithuanian Geological Survey under the Ministry of Environment (LGS) to discuss the opportunities and the pros and cons of amber extraction in the Curonian Lagoon.

Director of the Curonian Spit National Park, Aušra Feser, reminded of the history of amber extraction. In our country, it was being produced as late as in the late 18th century and only in one location – the Curonian Lagoon waterway. Permanent excavation of amber started in 1862. An amber excavators’ settlement, the so called “diggers colony”, was set up in the northern part of Juodkrantė, now known as the Amber Bay. About 500–600 people used to excavate amber at a depth of 4–10 m from the bed of the lagoon before it froze. Seventeen tons of amber was produced in 1864 and record-breaking 94 tons in 1868. Since 1880, amber extraction in this location has been decreasing while in 1900 it ceased completely. According to Aušra Feser, the local craft of amber excavation is worth revitalising, but not as recreational / tourist rather than economic / industrial business.

Researchers maintain a view, expressed by director of the Seacoast Research and Planning Institute, Saulius Gulbinskas, that amber extraction in the Curonian Lagoon would be possible as long as it did not affect the lagoon’s hydrological regime or harm the protected biological values. It is likely, however, that a compulsory environmental impact assessment will be required for amber extraction because the said deposits are included in Natura 2000 areas.

According to the director of LGS, Jonas Satkūnas, research carried out in 1992–1994 confirmed that amber production opportunities existed in the Curonian Lagoon. At present, the State Underground Register includes a provisionally explored Juodkrantė deposit, which contains 112 tons of resources, and three promising amber ranges in the littoral zone of the Curonian Lagoon.

“We will soon call for a tender to explore and produce these resources – we are in the final phase of developing of its provisions and conditions,” Jonas Satkūnas said. Once detailed exploration is carried out, the resources are approved and an environmental impact assessment is carried out, the successful tenderer will be able to obtain a permit to use those resources. Amber is considered one of the more valuable minerals, so such a permit may be issued only by way of tender under the Undergound Law.

Public information division
26/09/2014

Minister of Environment of Lithuania Kęstutis Navickas
Minister of Environment of Lithuania Kęstutis Navickas