ATHENS – Canadian miner Eldorado Gold said on Thursday that it has suspended a planned freeze on new investment in Greece after entering into talks with Greek officials.
The discussions concern the Kassandra Mine assets in the northern region of Halkidiki, which belong to Eldorado subsidiary Hellas Gold S.A., the Vancouver-based company said in a statement.
“We are very pleased with the constructive dialogue that is underway with the Ministry of Energy and Environment. Furthermore, last week the Ministry issued a number of long overdue routine permits for our Olympias project,” Eldorado CEO George Burns said.
“As a result of these developments we have decided to temporarily postpone our decision to place our assets in Halkidiki on care and maintenance,” he said, using an industry term that refers to the process of suspending production at a mine while preserving the site and equipment.
Ten days ago, Eldorado threatened to end its mining activities in Halkidiki after “fruitless” negotiations with the Ministry of Energy and Environment aimed at securing fresh licenses.
The most contentious project is the Skouries gold mine, which lies amid some 180 hectares (444 acres) of pristine forest in an environmentally sensitive region popular with tourists.
Though the region has a long tradition of mining, the issue has deeply divided the local population, with those who make their living from tourism or farming opposed to the Skouries project and the Halkidiki miners determined to keep the mines open.
Last week, hundreds of Halkidiki miners tried to storm the ministry in Athens in an attempt to break the impasse over the licenses for Eldorado, who had set a deadline of Sept. 22 for resolving the dispute.
Eldorado’s threat came at a particularly delicate moment for the government, as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had only recently proclaimed that Greece was again attractive to foreign investors.
Some operational decisions await the conclusion of an arbitration process, requested by the Greek government, to resolve questions about Eldorado’s proposal to use an innovative “flash” smelting process that eliminates the need for cyanide in extracting gold from ore.
The Halkidiki mines will have to be operated “without damaging the environment, health or (tourist industry) activities” of the region’s population, Greek Environment Minister Yorgos Stathakis said Thursday.
Eldorado Gold says it has invested roughly $3 billion in its Greek operations and that it planned a comparable future investment once the relevant permits were granted, adding 2,400 jobs to the 1,200 existing positions at its properties in Greece.