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Gold mining in Halkidiki, Greece


Description:

Cassandra mines operate since 6th BC century and 33 million tons of gold were extracted.

In 2011, following a long story of ambiguous government decisions and scandalous agreements, European Goldfields Ltd sold its share (95%) of Hellas Gold S.A., that owned Cassandra Mines, to the Canadian Eldorado Gold Corporation.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for mining activities in Cassandra was submitted in 2010 to the Ministry of Environment, following an ostensible public consultation process. The Minister, Ms Mpirmpili denied endorsing it. The EIA was approved by Mr Papakonstantinou (former Minister of Finance) who came after Ms Mpirmpili, 11 months later.

The EIA has many deficiencies in the documentation, incomplete scientific data, misinterpretation of statutory limits of pollutants, etc. A part of the mining area belongs to a NATURA 2000 site. [1] In 2009 and 2011 two actions were filed before the Council of State against the mining company by the residents, while the company itself filed one action against the Municipality of Aristotle, because of a decision of the Urban Planning Directory that demanded the stopping of the activities in Skouries site. The actions were discussed in 2012, and the Council gave permission to the company for the continuation of the activities. [2, 3] The open-pit gold copper ore mine will result to the destruction of a primitive forest, the drainage of the aquifers and to the pollution of atmosphere and land. The method of “flash smelting” that will be used has never been used in industrial scale production in the past and there are fears that the company will finally implement the method of cyanation.

Several civil society objections were raised since 2007. Since early 2011, residents of the Municipality of Aristotle initiated a major campaign against the investment. The campaign consists of petitions, awareness raising, use of social media, demonstrations in the mining area, the villages and big cities, concerts, etc. Universities and institutes commented on the EIA and revealed the gaps and the negative impacts of the planned activities. A mass movement is now active in the area, being supported by several groups and institutions from Greece and abroad.

From the beginning, the Greek government neglected the opinion of the residents and supported the company. There was no consultation process on the EIA and the social movement in Skouries faces major repression [1].

In February 2013, unknown men attacked the worksite in Skouries, causing damages to company’s vehicles and equipment. This gave the pretext to the police to hit peaceful demonstrations with excessive use of teargases; criminalize the participation in the movement, arrest several residents on charges of participation in terrorist organization, proceed to DNA tests, invade in houses etc.

The company make donations to Municipalities located in the area in the framework of the corporate social responsibility. In the past it attempted to donate football teams in Thessaloniki, but there were major reactions by the team’s funs. Furthermore, it donated to the Greek Police, fact that provoked the reaction of Parliament Members who submitted parliamentary question to the competent ministry. [4, 5,6] The majority of mainstream media in Greece support the government and the private investors, presenting the mass movement as a minority that is against any kind of development, obscuring the scientific institutions’ reviews and giving the floor only to the company and her employees. International press covers the issue more objectively. [7]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Gold mining in Halkidiki, Greece
Country:Greece
State or province:Region of Western Macedonia, Regional Unit of Halkidiki
(municipality or city/town)Municipality of Aristotle
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Land acquisition conflicts
Tailings from mines
Deforestation
Mineral processing
Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Copper
Land
Gold
Zinc
Lead
Silver

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

380 mil. tons of gold will be extracted the next 25 years [1]

Project area:31,700
Level of Investment:1,638,000,000.00 [8]
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:~18,300
Start of the conflict:01/04/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Hellas Gold SA (Hellas Gold) from Greece
Eldorado Gold Corporation (eldoradogold) from Canada
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change; Municipality of Aristotle; Decentralized Administration of Macedonia-Thrace
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Solidarity Statements: Municipalities, Trade Unions, environmental grassroots from all over Greece; Mining Injustice Solidarity Network; Amnesty international; Socialist Alternative (SAV) (Stuttgart, Germany); Working Group “Stuttgart 21 is everywhere” (Germany); Plataforma Salvemos Cabana (Galicia, Spain); Plataforma pola defensa de Corcoesto e Bergantiños (Spain); People's Health Movement (Canada); Party of the European Left (EU); European Gold Forum; Mining Watch Canada; Committee for a Workers International; Italian Forum of Water Movements.

People's solidarity statements: Naomi Klein (journalist, syndicated columnist and author), Noam Chomsky (Prof. MIT, USA), Niki Ashton (Greek-Canadian Parliamentarian), Peter Bohmer (Prof. in the Evergreen State College, USA).

Solidarity resolution signed by representatives from: Socialist Struggle Movement (Israel); Socialist Party (UK); Socialist Action Hon Kong; Socialist Justice Party (Sweden); Socialist Party S. Ireland); Democratic Socialist Movement (North Africa); Democratic Socialist Movement (Nigeria); CWI Malaysia; New Socialist Alternative (India); United Socialist Party (Sri Lanka); LSR (Brazil); Socialismo Revolucionario (Venezuela); Contro Corrente (Italy); Russian CWI; SAV (Germany); Gauche Revolutionnaire (France); Socialist Party (Australia); Socialist Left Party (Austria); Left Socialist Party (Belgium); Socialist Party of Scotland; Alternatywa Socjalistyana (Poland); Socialist Alternative (USA); Socialismo Revolucionario (Chile); Socialismo Revolucionario (Spain); Socialismo Revolucionario (Portugal); New Internationalist Left (Cyprus); Alternativa Socialista Revolucionaria (Bolivia); Sosyalist Alternatif (Turkey); CWI Kazakstan; Observatorio Critico (Cuba); Socialist Movement Pakistan

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Artisanal miners
International ejos
Recreational users
Farmers
Local ejos
Social movements
translation missing: en.m.mobilizing_groups.fisher_people
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Women
Political Organizations; Grassroots
Forms of mobilization:Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Development of alternative proposals
Public campaigns
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Blockades
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Strikes
Development of a network/collective action
Official complaint letters and petitions
Refusal of compensation

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Mine tailing spills, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow)
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsPotential Impacts: Cancer (trachea and bronchi, lung, stomach and liver); pulmonary tuberculosis; silicosis; pleural diseases; malaria; dengue fever; hearing loss; increased prevalence of bacterial and viral infections; diseases of the blood, skin and musculoskeletal system; hypertension; disorders in the child’s nervous system; disruption of respiratory function; renal failure; acute and chronic poisoning; gastroenteritis; kidney disease; liver damage; hepatitis; liver cirrhosis; jaundice [1]
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Other socio-economic impactsVisible impacts on agriculture (farming and organic farming, livestock, fishing and aquaculture, logging, hunting, forest fruits and aromatic herbs, forestry) and tourism

Outcome

Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Repression
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Development of alternatives:Local communities present a different development plan and fully disagree with the planned investment. The development option for the wider area that they proposed is based on traditional occupations such as agriculture and promotion of organic farming, forestry products, beekeeping, livestock, processing and trade of local products, fishing and tourism (included alternative forms of tourism, such as agro- and eco-tourism).
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The case cannot be considered as an environmental justice success, as the company still operates, constructing the facilities and devastating the environment. The impacts to the biodiversity, the water and the landscape are irreversible. There are two actions for the cancelation of the investment pending in the Council of State, but the long delay on giving the ruling cannot be considered as a positive fact. Furthermore, the current government provides full support to the company.

From the point of view of the movement, the case is considered successful, because of the mass mobilization of the local societies, as well as the support movement all over Greece and abroad. In addition to this and because of the state repression, strong solidarity bonds were developed among the residents of the region.

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Environmental Impact Assessment (in Greek)
http://soshalkidiki.gr/sos_documents/Kyria_Meleti.pdf

Approval of Environmental Terms (in Greek)
http://soshalkidiki.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/kya_201745_26072011.pdf

Regulation of Mining and Quarry Operations (In Greek)

Government Gazette (ΦΕΚ) 1227 Β 14.06.2011
http://www.ypeka.gr/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=jigdGPm9%2Ff8%3D&tabid=296&language=el-GR

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] SOS Halkidiki, 2013, Halkidiki Mines, Information, Facts, SOS Chalkidiki Magazine, Volume 1
http://soshalkidiki.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/soshalkidiki_01_en.pdf

[8] Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change Project Implementation, 2012, pp 44-45 (in Greek)
http://www.ypeka.gr/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=noMIgyVwp6c%3D&tabid=367&...

[2] Apostolakis Sakis, 2014, Actions against the mining activities in Skouries are still pending in the Council of State, Newspaper Eleftherotypia, 8 March 2014
http://www.enet.gr/?i=news.el.article&id=419411

[4] Giannis Mpaskakis, 2014, The Hellas Gold SA is Amphipolis’ big sponsor, Newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton,27/9/2014
http://www.efsyn.gr/?p=238573

[5] Uprising of PAOK funs because of Hellas Gold sponsorship to the team, 2013, Left.gr,
http://left.gr/news/xesikomos-ston-paok-gia-ti-horigia-tis-ellinikos-hrysos

[3] Hellas Gold, 2014, Accreditation Decisions, Council of State Decisions
http://www.hellas-gold.com/ellinikos-xrysos/meletes-eksoruksis

[7] Alevizopoulou Mariniki, 2013, Gold Mining in Chalkidiki: Greek Governments in the Service of Mining Companies, adapted from a report published in UNFOLLOW magazine, Issue 14
http://borderlinereports.net/2013/02/23/report-gold-mining-in-chalkidiki-part-1-greek-governments-in-the-service-of-mining-companies/

[6] Parliamentary question submitted by SYRIZA parliamentarians to the Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection on the donation of Hellas Gold SA to the Greek Police
http://www.syriza.gr/article/Erwthsh-kai-Aithsh-Katatheshs-Eggrafwn-boyleytwn-SYRIZA-pros-ton-Ypoyrgo-Dhmosias-Takshs-kai-Prostasias-toy-Polith:-CHorhgia-ths-Ellhnikos-CHrysos-A.E.-sthn-Ellhnikh-Astynomia.html#.VDitMFczJ8E

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Kallis Giorgos, 2012, The rise of a new extractivism and the plea for degrowth
http://blog.postwachstum.de/the-rise-of-a-new-extractivism-and-the-plea-for-degrowth-20121016

Federico Demaria, Giorgios Kallis and Nick Meynen, 2012, Gold in Greece: corporations create civil war
www.ejolt.org/2012/03/gold-in-greece-corporations-create-civil-war/

Meynen Nick, 2012, Greek police chase demonstrators for seven kilometers, beating them up
http://www.ejolt.org/2012/10/greek-police-chase-demonstrators-for-seven-kilometers-beating-them-up/

Council of Europe – Parliamentary Assembly, 2013, Gold mining projects – a danger to human rights, the rule of law and ecological integrity, Doc. 13279
http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/Doc/XrefViewPDF.asp?FileID=20032&Language=EN

Theodora Oikonomides and Zoe Mavroudi, 2013, Skouries: an ancient forest is Greece’s latest battle-ground, Union Solidarity International
https://usilive.org/skouries-an-ancient-forest-is-greeces-latest-battle-ground/

Mining Watch Canada, 2013, Gold and Democracy Don’t Mix – Eldorado Gold Faces Determined Opposition in Greece
http://www.miningwatch.ca/blog/gold-and-democracy-don-t-mix-eldorado-gold-faces-determined-opposition-greece

SOS Halkidiki, Women's Open Letter
http://soshalkidiki.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/women_en.pdf

Petition: Solidarity with the struggling women in Halkidiki, Greece
https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Allilegyi_stis_agonizomenes_gynaikes_tis_Halkidikis_Solidarity_with_the_struggling_women_in_Halkidiki_Greece/?cdvdFeb

Mining company accused of transporting toxic materials illegally, 2013, Journal Eleftherotypia, ENET English
http://www.enetenglish.gr/?i=news.en.home&id=1542

Amnesty International, 2012, Policing demonstration in the European Union, p. 9
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR01/022/2012/en/1e06df7d-6878-40e0-8e82-d07605e9a6e9/eur010222012en.pdf

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

The ecologist, 2013, Gold rush: Greek jobs, forest and future under threat as austerity bites.

The latest investigation by the UK Ecologist magazine probes the impact Greece's economic crisis is having on the nation's environment, examining a controversial mining project.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_5B9LIa0nA

Coordinator Group of Stageira and Akanthos, 2013, Welcome to the Greek Eldorado.

Overview of the investment and the mobilizations.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diUxacCtCFc

Yorgos Avgeropoulos, 2012-2013, GOLDEN TIMES - CASSANDRA'S TREASURE , Small Planet Documentary Production
http://www.smallplanet.gr/en/documentaries/chronologically/2012-2013/313-golden-times-cassandras-treasure

Yorgos Avgeropoulos, 2011-2012, THE MIDAS EFFECT, Small Planet Documentary Production
http://www.smallplanet.gr/en/documentaries/chronologically/2011-2012/304-the-midas-effect

Russian Today, 2013, Ecology vs Economy: Dirty gold dig split Greeks in Chalkidiki
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=105182aJRTw

Halkidiki Protest against ElDorado Gold Mining Company 3rd August 2013
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ3kvy6ho1k

Nelly Psarrou, 2014, Water drops (Stagones), A documentary on water in Greece, pointing out the impacts of the investment on water in the wider region.
http://www.stagonesdoc.gr/en/

Unfollow, 2012, Chalkidiki Mining: Short story of a rebel

A small documentary on the Northeast Chalkidiki residents' struggle against gold mines and the harsh police repression used by the Greek state in order to protect private company's interests.
http://vimeo.com/47851964

Other documents

Police invasion in Ierissos (7 March 2013)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/7mar13_Ierissos_police_invasion.jpg

Police invasion in Ierissos (7 March 2013)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/7mar13_Ierissos.jpg

Manifestation Skouries (21 October 2012)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/21_oct_12_manif_skouries.jpg

Manifestation Skouries (22 October 2012)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/22oct12_mainf_b.jpg

Manifestation Skouries (22 October 2012)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/22oct12_mainf.jpg

Concert in Ierissos (27 September 2014)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/concert_ierissos_27_sept_14.jpg

Manifestation in Thessaloniki (24 November 2012)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/manif_thessaloniki_24_nov_12.jpg

Meta information

Contributor:Ermioni Frezouli, Geography Department - Harokopio University Athens (HUA).
Last update15/11/2014

Images

 

Police invasion in Ierissos (7 March 2013)

 

Police invasion in Ierissos (7 March 2013)

 

Manifestation Skouries (21 October 2012)

 

Manifestation Skouries (22 October 2012)

 

Manifestation Skouries (22 October 2012)

 

Concert in Ierissos (27 September 2014)

 

Manifestation in Thessaloniki (24 November 2012)