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Council of Canadians celebrates Syriza’s commitment to stop Skouries mine

Great news from Greece today! Reuters reports, “‎Greece’s new left-wing government … is firmly opposed to a Canadian gold mine [the country’s new energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said on Friday].” Lafazanis says, “We are absolutely against it and we will examine our next moves on it.”

The minister is referring to the Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold’s Skouries open pit gold mine and processing plant. Prior to being elected as the government of Greece, “Syriza had criticized the environment impact of the project on the pristine Halkidiki peninsula landscape of beaches and forest surrounding it.” About 3,300 acres of primeval forest were cut down to clear the area for the mine, plant, roads and an area to dump the mine’s toxic tailings waste. This destruction has been happening near the birthplace of the Greek philosopher Aristotle who would have walked in these woods more than two thousand years ago.

The New York Times has reported, “Only 10 years ago, [opponents of the mine] point out, Greece’s highest court ruled that the amount of environmental damage that mining would do here was not worth the economic gain. Opponents [also] worry about dust and ground water pollution.” Three university professors in Greece, who teach forestry, mountain water settlement, and forest soil, have also noted their strong concerns about the impact of the forest removal for the Skouries mine on the hydrological cycle.

The mine was able to proceed because the troika of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission forced Greece under its austerity program to streamline their environmental approval processes for mines and other environmentally-damaging projects. Today’s Reuters news report editorializes, “The comments by , who represents the more radical wing of the ruling Syriza party, further reinforces early signs that the government is sticking to campaign pledges that have chilled investment and unnerved financial markets.”

The Council of Canadians and Blue Planet Project have worked with Greek allies to oppose this mine and celebrates this news with them.

In May 2013, we helped support a tour with three people from Greece to highlight their concerns about the mine with people in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. Just a couple months earlier, our friend Maria Kadoglou, one of the speakers on this tour, spoke against the mine on CBC Radio’s As It Happens. We also encouraged our supporters to watch this documentary for the International Action Day Against Gold Mines in Halkidiki. And we supported their interventions at the World Social Forum as well as posting numerous campaign blogs on the situation there, including one highlighting that 15,000 people had marched on the Canadian consulate in Thessaloniki in opposition to this gold mine.

We’ll continue to monitor this situation. A tweet from @antigoldgreece earlier today tells us, “Meanwhile, Eldorado Gold continues destruction of Skouries forest full-speed.”