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Eldorado Gold CEO to press Syriza government on Skouries mine

Photo: Twitter photo of the Skouries mine, January 15, 2015.

Twitter photo of the Skouries mine, January 15, 2015.

The chief executive officer of Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold will meet with representatives of the Syriza government in Athens today. The Globe and Mail reports, “The CEO of Eldorado Gold Corp., the biggest foreign investor in Greece, says he is confident the country’s new radical left Syriza government will endorse the Vancouver company’s mining project, even though a Syriza cabinet minister is vowing to kill it off.” Greek energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis has stated, “We are against the gold investment in Skouries and we will use all possible legal means to back our position.”

Eldorado CEO Paul Wright appears to be bringing two main arguments:

  • “The vast majority of the community is supportive of the investment. …We are dealing with only a small, but vocal, minority of protesters.”

  • “We have clearly established in the courts that this investment is in full compliance with all regulations.”

Globe and Mail reporter Eric Reguly editorializes in his article, “Despite the protests [against the mine], most of the local villages are in favour of Eldorado’s mining projects, as are two of the three local MPs. Unemployment in the areas is about 30 per cent and Eldorado is one of few employment options beyond the tourism industry in the region.”

Let’s look at those arguments.

Job creation & community support

In January 2013, the New York Times reported, “For some residents, all this activity, which promises perhaps 1,500 jobs by 2015, is a blessing that could pump some life into the dismal economy of the surrounding villages in this rural northeast region of Greece. But for hundreds of others, who have mounted repeated protests, the new mining operation is nothing more than a symbol of Greece’s willingness these days to accept any development, no matter the environmental cost. Only 10 years ago, they like to point out, Greece’s highest court ruled that the amount of environmental damage that mining would do here was not worth the economic gain.”

And in October 2013, the New Internationalist noted, “The majority of people on the Halkidiki Peninsula rely on the environment for their livelihood: whether through fishing, agricultural work, beekeeping or responsible forestry. Halkidiki is also the third most popular tourist destination in Greece. …Many residents of Halkidiki feel that the economic arguments for this type of large-scale mining focus too much on short-term gain, while missing the wider arguments against damaging the environment and potentially interfering with alternative forms of employment.”

Full compliance with all regulations

The New Internationalist has also reported, “In 2011, the cash-strapped government of Greece introduced a fast-track programme to facilitate the approval of large-scale economic projects, including gold mining. …Some have questioned the rationale of a deal that saw the Greek government sell up to €15.5 billion ($21 billion) of mineral assets for €11 million ($15 million). The European Commission (EC) in Brussels investigated a complaint about the sale of the Cassandra mines [to European Goldfields which was later bought out by Eldorado Gold] and confirmed in 2011 that ‘the sale was carried out without an open tender or a valuation of the mines’ assets by an independent valuator. The sale contract also provided for the waiver of transaction taxes.’ The sale was therefore in breach of EU regulations, and the EC ruled that €15.3 million ($20.7 million) in illegal aid had been granted to the mining company. The Greek state was ordered to recover this amount plus interest, amounting to €21.7 million ($29.5 million) in total. In May 2012, the EC was forced to take legal action against the Greek government for failing to comply with the terms of the ruling. A final decision is still pending.”

The Council of Canadians first expressed its solidarity with Greek allies on this issue in March 2012. The mine is now set to begin production in 2016. To read our blogs about the Skouries mine, which have highlighted community opposition, the imposition of the mine through austerity measures, and the impacts of the mine on local water sources, please click here.