ATHENS – Miners from the Halkidiki gold mines in northern Greece stormed on Wednesday the Greek Development Ministry demanding the government avoids putting their jobs in jeopardy in a dispute with a Canadian company that currently exploits the gold deposits.
A dozen miners managed to evade riot police and the ministry building chanting “hand off the mines,” demanding that the government of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras grant exploitation licenses to the Canadian Eldorado Gold.
Police managed to clear the ministry, but around 100 miners continued protesting in the street.
The demonstration came two days after Eldorado Gold threatened to end its mining activities in Halkidiki following “fruitless” negotiations with the Ministry of Environment aimed at securing fresh licenses.
George Burns, CEO of Eldorado Gold, accused the government of delaying the operational licenses, calling them to “consider Greek workers and the nation.”
Burns said that, since 2012, the group had invested $3 billion and a similar investment was planned for the future once the relevant permits were grant – a move the company said would add another 2,400 jobs to the current 1,200 it has already established.
Eldorado said there was still time for the Greek government to settle the agreement.
On its part, the Greek government accused Eldorado of acting on political motivations, considering that the announcement that it could cut production in the mines from Sept. 22 should the license dispute remain unresolved came immediately after visit of French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron who, along with Tsipras, said Greece was again attractive to foreign investment.
Ministry of the Environment sources expressed surprise the announcement took place just days prior to the granting of a temporary license for one of the mines.
The final decision is due in six months when an ongoing arbitration process, requested by the Greek government, resolves a specific issue on a proposed technical metallurgical process based on an innovative “flash” smelting process that avoids using cyanide in the ore to the gold extraction process.
The Ministry of the Environment contends the dispute has more to do with Eldorado’s metallurgical processing plant and less with its extractive methods.