Dispute over Halkidiki gold mines intensifies
Hellas Gold’s investment in Halkidiki is testing the relationship between the Greek government and Eldorado Gold, the Canadian firm behind the operation, as well as with SYRIZA’s left wing, which has MPs from the area and has reacted to the gold mining project.
After Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who also leads the junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), referred to the project being a “fraud” and a “money-laundering” exercise, tensions have reached a new level and Hellas Gold has said it reserves the right to launch legal action.
This new round of tension came after Energy and Environment Minister Giorgos Stathakis announced the decision to refer the government’s dispute with the company over operating licenses to an arbitration process. The ministry claims that Hellas Gold is not living up to the terms of its contract but the company points out that it has been vindicated in 16 cases with regard to its environmental studies.
Sources at the company say they feel they are being held hostage and that they believe there are political motives behind the government’s action.
The coalition has yet to issue an operating license for the processing plant at Olympias, one of the two gold mines managed by Hellas Gold. The company was due to inaugurate the facilities on September 15 but has now postponed this until further notice.
The operating permit is vital to the continuation of the project and the company had been hoping to move forward, as was underlined by the fact that officials, unions and representatives of businesses from all over Europe had been invited to the inauguration that was canceled last week.
Workers’ unions say that the delay in issuing the license is also why they intend to hold protests in September. They say their jobs are at risk because of the failure to provide a permit for the new facilities at Olympias. The workers argue that this process should have been concluded in January and have called on the Energy and Environment Ministry to explain why it has yet to give its approval.
Eldorado Gold’s share value has dropped by more than 50 percent since the start of the year, largely due to the uncertainty surrounding its investment in Greece.
Hellas Gold has invested in two mines.