Stopping Eldorado Gold – Mining struggle in Greece

Originally Published by George Blionis, Green European Journal

 

8552075382_98e2dddd44_k-400x300

With its acquisition of the Canadian European Goldfields in 2012 and the Australian Glory Resources in 2013, Eldorado Gold now owns all gold-mining projects in Greece. The corporation operates in Greece, in a context of a severe debt crisis and ensuing subjection to a shock therapy by its European creditors and the IMF since 2010. Although the Greek economy would badly need the money, their operations don’t contribute to the resolution of Greece’s problems. According to a recent report by the Dutch NGO SOMO (Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations; some relevant links hereand here), Eldorado Gold has a well-developed tax avoidance structure using 12 Dutch mailbox companies and various subsidiaries in Barbados as well as the British Virgin and Cayman Islands.

Naomi Klein has also written about this mining project[1] in her recent bookThis Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate: “In the Skouries forest near Ierissos, the Canadian mining company Eldorado Gold is planning to clear-cut a large swath of old-growth forest and reengineer the local water system in order to build a massive open-pit gold and copper mine, along with a processing plant, and a large underground mine. Despite its remote location, the fate of the Skouries forest is a matter of intense preoccupation for the entire country. It is debated in the national parliament and on evening talk shows. For Greece’s huge progressive movement, it is something of a cause célèbre: urban activists in Thessaloniki and Athens organise mass demonstrations and travel to the woods for action days and fundraising concerts”.

NO MENTION OF CYANIDE

The project has serious risks. In a recent report by the Hellenic Mining Watch, strong evidence is given about the inadequacy of the environmental impact assessment study submitted by Eldorado Gold, which has lead to misguided decision of environmental permission by the Ministry of Environment in 2011. HMW’s main argument is that the method of “flash smelting”, which is proposed for use by the metallurgy unit (currently under construction on site of an old-growth forest), is inadequate to process condensates rich in arsenic. This can lead to the abandoning of this method and to the application of the most common cyanide leaching method[2]. The former Minister of Environment, G. Papakonstantinou, entirely overlooked this aspect, giving the green light for this controversial investment. However, the use of cyanide is not mentioned in the EIA and if used it would be a clear breach of the signed agreement with the government.

The EIA reportedly has several other flaws, like the severe underestimation of the impacts of Eldorado Gold’s activity on the Wildlife Refuge of Skouries (K129), TilioAcerion habitat (Habitats Directive code 9180) and the Natura 2000 site of Mt Stratonikon (GR1270005).

Photo: Antigoldgr.org

Photo: Antigoldgr.org

A LONG HISTORY OF STRUGGLES

For many decades governments and activists have been thinking differently of this issue. Since the 1980s, every government has wanted to encourage gold mining at Olympias and Skouries, but the local people and the ecological movement resisted. The state-owned METBA was followed by the Canadian TVX, which was stopped by the Council of State, because the method of cyanide leaching that it was planning to use, was considered to be environmentally unacceptable.

In December 2003, the assets of Cassandra Mines in Halkidiki that were previously owned by TVX were transferred to the Greek State for 11 million euros. On the same day, they were sold to HELLAS GOLD S.A. for the same price without prior economic assessment of the assets and without an open competition. This transaction has been found by the European Commission to be in violation of EU competition rules and Greece was ordered to reclaim 15.3 million euros from Hellas Gold. This sum has still not been reclaimed. In July 2011, the Greek State approved the Environmental Impact Assessment after a shockingly ostensible public consultation. This triggered a wide movement of resistance, including local residents, environmentalists, leftist protesters, and even anarchists.

Since late March 2012, Eldorado Gold has fenced off large parts of the mountain with barbed wire, placed security guards and traffic control systems and started razing the forest in order to construct the open pit, processing plant, roads and tailings dams.

The turning point came on Oct. 21 when about 2,500 protesters, most of them locals, but also activists from other parts of Northern Greece where there are plans for gold-mining projects, fought a pitched battle with more than 200 police along the forest road leading to Eldorado’s Skouries gold-and-copper deposit, the centrepiece of its Greek strategy. 14 people were arrested. On the night of Feb. 16, about 40 masked men invaded a Skouries work site in the forest, set fire to machinery and vehicles, and doused three security guards with fuel, threatening to burn them alive. Eldorado put the damage of the firebomb attack at $1 million.

CRIMINALISING PROTESTERS

Although local groups and ecological organisations condemned the use of violence, this didn’t stop the supporters of the project from criminalising the protesters. Two men were arrested and another 18 were put under investigation. Many more arrests were to follow, but no conviction. The perpetrators remain unknown. Police forces imposed a regime of occupation in Ierissos, conducting continuous house searches, interrogations, arrests to take DNA and detentions (more on this here).

Today, more than 300 residents of the area are facing criminal charges related to their efforts to preserve the mountain, the environment and the health of their communities.

In early April 2015, local residents protesting on site of the Skouries mine clashed with employees of Eldorado Gold who had called a last minute counter-demonstration. One might expect the counter protest to have been forbidden by police, but unfortunately it was allowed to go ahead uncontested. When the miners did arrive, from behind the lines of riot police, and in plain sight, they threw stones at the protesters. Riot police resorted to tear gas in attempts to subdue the clashes. SYRIZA MP, Katerina Inglezi,condemned the actions of the police, “What happened is unprecedented! (…) The police attacked the residents along with Eldorado Gold’s miners. (…)This unacceptable situation doesn’t only concern the inhabitants of Halkidiki and the movement against mining. It exposes the government itself. Who controls the police? The government or Eldorado Gold? The people here are disappointed”.

WILL SYRIZA HELP?

Syriza is now in government, since January, thus the protesters have found an ally in tackling business interests and reversing decisions made by former governments. Syriza, had pledged that, if elected, it will cancel the mine as one of its first acts in power.

The Deputy Minister for Environment is Yiannis Tsironis, a member of the Ecologists Greens (the Greek Green Party), which supported Syriza in the last elections. But even though an ecologically responsible force is in power now, the issue of Skouries is a “hot potato”, since the government of George Papandreou’s PASOK bound very well together all the legal permissions necessary for the corporation to proceed, without major worries about the environment.

The government of ND that followed continued on the same lines. As Klein also reported in her book, ex-PM Antonis Samaras “announced that the Eldorado mine will go ahead at all costs, such is the importance of protecting foreign investment in the country.

Tsironis, the Green deputy-MP initiated a re-evaluation procedure about the logging and building permissions of Eldorado Gold. However, the main decision will have to be about the adequacy of the EIA study. It should be taken by the Minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis, and be supported by the whole government. And it should be a “yes or no” decision, leading to the cancellation or the continuation of the “investment”.

A BALKAN AND EUROPEAN PROBLEM

Apart from the evolution of the talks about Greece’s debt in the EuroGroup, the developments about Skouries are also of great significance in Greece, and very relevant for the development of the Balkans and the whole of Europe. Countries like Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey[3] have several problems with gold mining projects, most of which are using or plan to use the cyanide leaching method[4]. Even in countries like Finland, gold, copper or nickel mining corporations are presenting serious problems when it comes to sticking to the regulations, and awful accidents like the one at Talvivaarashow the need for a stricter regulation of the industry, especially concerning the management of toxic wastes in tailing ponds.

And as the case of Eldorado Gold has shown, these serious threats need people who are ready to protest against harmful developments, as well as allies in progressive political forces, otherwise an issue like this would be quickly off the agenda.

REFERENCES

[1] Klein N., 2014, This changes everything, Penguin Group, page 297.

[2] See also Blionis G., 2012, The new Gold Rush in Greece, Green Balkan Newsletter 2, p. 11.

[3] Asici A.A., 2012, Gold Mining at Kazdaglari, Green Balkan Newsletter 2, p. 10.

[4] See Resolution adopted by the EGP, at Athens Council, November 2012, “The Balkan Gold Rush in the year 2012: a tradegy in the making”.

Related Posts

El Parlamento Europeo insta a investigar sobre la vulneración generalizada de directivas europeas en las minas de San Finx
‘Ties are strengthened’: Spanish campaigners unite around Atalaya Mining’s London AGM
PRESS RELEASE: Spanish campaigners call Atalaya Mining to account
Huge demonstrations against mining in Galicia, Spain
Berkeley Energia uranium mining project in Spain ‒ the EU’s only new uranium mine?
Extractive colonialism in Europe: the case of Greece #Skouries
El Camino de Santiago: resistance to new copper mining near UNESCO World Heritage walking route
Save Pont Valley: Local residents take direct action against new opencast coal mine
Slow Death in Siberia

Slow Death in Siberia

Press Release: Slow Death in Siberia
Resource Sufficiency: Moving beyond the gospel of eco-efficiency
Fidelma O’Kane – Earth Keeper

Fidelma O’Kane – Earth Keeper

  • Written on: 03 May 2018
  • Posted under: Videos
Our Earth Our Future: To Mine or to Mind?

Our Earth Our Future: To Mine or to Mind?

  • Written on: 03 May 2018
  • Posted under: Videos
Leave the gold in the hills: international solidarity flows to community resisting mining in Northern Ireland
Mencherep, Siberia: An incredible victory in an unlikely place
Pont Valley: Bust of Secretary of State unveiled to protest lack of action on opencast coal
Take Action: 10,000 native trees for Froxán
County Durham, UK: Protesters scale trees in sub-zero temperatures in bid to stop new opencast coal mine
Resistance against mining growing in Galicia, Spain
Näätämö River restoration project receives major new support, Finland
Press Release: Frontline defenders travel to London to counter Mines and Money conference between 25-30 November
The secret of your smartphone

The secret of your smartphone

  • Written on: 22 November 2017
  • Posted under: Videos
Panorama Mine: Mapping French mining projects
Members of YLNM have expressed their solidarity with Jesús Cruz, a member of Stop Uranio from Spain
For the Right to Resist !!! International Solidarity with blogger and Stop Uranio Activist from Salamanca, Spain
Take Action: Support Galician YLNM members’ campaign to investigate the San Finx mine
EL CAMPO CHARRO EN LUCHA POR LA INTENCIÓN DE UNA MULTINACIONAL AUSTRALIANA DE ABRIR UNA MINA DE URANIO A CIELO ABIERTO
Calling Australian Allies: Help Stop Uranio halt a uranium mine in Salamanca, Spain
Trun: Bulgarian town backs gold mining ban in referendum
Eldorado Gold’s Unspoken Legal Problems in Greece
“Druridge Bay is not theirs to take, but ours to keep.”
In Photos: Solidarity in action at rally to stop Druridge Bay coal mine
We stand in solidarity: South African and UK communities unite to reject plans for Druridge Bay open-cast coal mine
Open Letter: South African communities ask UK planners to reject new open-cast coal mine
Call to action: Support campaigners who shut down the UK’s largest coal mine!
The European Parliament insists on a cyanide ban in mining
More than 100 organizations around the world say no to mega-mining in French Guiana
Movie-like intimidation and obstruction tactics at Certej in Romania
Resistance, exchange, (post)extractivism: YLNM Coordinators meet in Galicia- in photos
Agua, tierra, derechos y alternativas

Agua, tierra, derechos y alternativas

Un comité de expertos internacionales visitó el entorno de San Finx
YLNM joins ContraMINAcción to celebrate third Meeting on Impacts of Mining, in Galicia
Gold-digging with investor-state lawsuits: Canadian mining corporation sues to force Romanians to accept toxic Roşia Montană goldmine
Selkie: Restoring land, water and hope in the Finnish Boreal
The Sami’s Näätämö River Revival: Hope in the midst of Finland’s extractive tsunami
#AxeDrax: Campaigners unite for climate justice against coal and bioenergy-fueled deforestation
REPORT: The New Colonialism: Britain’s scramble for Africa’s energy and mineral resources
‘Responsible Extractives Summit’: Sick Joke or Serious Indictment of Industry?
Mining, Murder and a British Millionaire: Protestors stand in solidarity with South African communities opposing mining
#StandWithAmadiba

#StandWithAmadiba

  • Written on: 11 May 2016
  • Posted under: Videos
Attack to Common Woodland in Galicia

Attack to Common Woodland in Galicia

Sløtface: Anti-mining Activist Punk Rockers

Sløtface: Anti-mining Activist Punk Rockers

  • Written on: 28 April 2016
  • Posted under: Videos
New Forest ‘Land Grab’ Act Passes in Finnish Parliament
Take Action to prevent the destruction of Sami Forest Lands in Finland
Finland: State Forestry Company About to Seize Control of Sámi Indigenous Key Old Growth Forests
How to define “responsible mining”? A critical review of a French initiative by EWB Extractive systems
‘People of Artvin are against mining because their way of life is threatened’
Romanian civil society wins key victory against proposed gold mine
Police teargas locals protesting new gold mines in Artvin, Turkey
No coal, no fracking: end fossil fuel production on UK soil by 2020!
Máis minas contaminantes para Galicia: alerta social
Ditch coal now! The global destruction caused by the UK’s coal power generation
Call for Abstracts and Invitation to Workshop – An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Negative Impacts of Mining
Ditch Coal

Ditch Coal

At the Coalface: Ten more years of UK coal burning a lifetime on the ground
Tesouro de Corcoesto

Tesouro de Corcoesto

  • Written on: 15 January 2016
  • Posted under: Videos
A message of solidarity to communities fighting the Skouries Mine (Halkidiki)
Romanian village blocks Canadian firm from mining for gold
Yes to Life and Climate Justice, No to Mining and Climate Catastrophe! (EN/FR)
Empty promises: G20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production
Petition: Tackle the deadly trade in conflict minerals!

Petition: Tackle the deadly trade in conflict minerals!

  • Written on: 14 October 2015
  • Posted under: Campaigns
UK: Community opponents of planned Field House coal mine buoyed by international solidarity
Coal Map of Europe

Coal Map of Europe

Armenian Villagers Up In Arms Against New Mining Project
Lignite – Power Source of the Past?

Lignite – Power Source of the Past?

  • Written on: 11 September 2015
  • Posted under: Videos
Our Resistance, Our Hope: Unity Statement of the International People’s Conference on Mining
Stopping Eldorado Gold – Mining struggle in Greece
The end of an affair! Gabriel to sue Romania over Rosia Montana via an ISDS case
Achievements of the Global Day Against Mega Mining
Strengthening anti-mining ties in southern Europe
22 July 2015 – Global Day of Action Against Mega Mining- DÍA MUNDIAL CONTRA LA MEGAMINERÍA
Invitation to FanFest and the Rosia Montana Forum
‘300 Cerattepeli’ stand against mining company
Fracking application rejected by Lancashire county council
Mining on Top Africa: London Summit Disrupted
Victory as Councillors take a stance against Welsh opencast coal mining
Africa-UK Civil Society Letter to the Mining on Top Africa: London Summit
PRESS RELEASE: African Civil Society Challenges London Mining Conference
UK Coal Far From Dead: Bradley Coal Mine approved despite community resistance.
Sámi People and allies force Irish mining company out of their territory
I Couldn’t Believe My Eyes

I Couldn’t Believe My Eyes

  • Written on: 08 April 2015
  • Posted under: Videos
In Pictures – Yes to Life No to Mining raises the voice of African civil society against the extractives
Let them eat carbon! The corporate plan to cook Africa in its own fossil fuels
African civil society and global allies challenge Chatham House conference on ‘Extractive Industries in Africa’
Divestment, in Solidarity: NAPE Uganda reach out to London’s divestment campaigners
CONDEMNED: Russian Coal Mining and Shor Displacements

CONDEMNED: Russian Coal Mining and Shor Displacements

  • Written on: 05 February 2015
  • Posted under: Videos
In Solidarity – En Solidaridad

In Solidarity – En Solidaridad

  • Written on: 11 December 2014
  • Posted under: Videos
Mining An Imminent Threat to Local and Indigenous Communities of European North
Communities of Falkirk Join Together To Resist Extreme Energy Initiatives
Local Communities Resist Gold Mining in Corcoesto, Galicia

Start a Conversation. Share Words of Solidarity.

This website is about building a movement. We can only build a movement when we connect with one another. We invite you to do just that…

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *