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Gold mining in Halkidiki, Greece


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
State or province:Region of Western Macedonia, Regional Unit of Halkidiki
Location of conflict: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:Mineral processing
Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Gold

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 & Mobilization

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


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


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
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 & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Environmental Impact Assessment (in Greek)

Approval of Environmental Terms (in Greek)

Regulation of Mining and Quarry Operations (In Greek)

Government Gazette (ΦΕΚ) 1227 Β 14.06.2011

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

[1] SOS Halkidiki, 2013, Halkidiki Mines, Information, Facts, SOS Chalkidiki Magazine, Volume 1

[5] Uprising of PAOK funs because of Hellas Gold sponsorship to the team, 2013,,

[8] Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change Project Implementation, 2012, pp 44-45 (in Greek)

[4] Giannis Mpaskakis, 2014, The Hellas Gold SA is Amphipolis’ big sponsor, Newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton,27/9/2014

[2] Apostolakis Sakis, 2014, Actions against the mining activities in Skouries are still pending in the Council of State, Newspaper Eleftherotypia, 8 March 2014

[3] Hellas Gold, 2014, Accreditation Decisions, Council of State Decisions

[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

[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

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Federico Demaria, Giorgios Kallis and Nick Meynen, 2012, Gold in Greece: corporations create civil war

Council of Europe – Parliamentary Assembly, 2013, Gold mining projects – a danger to human rights, the rule of law and ecological integrity, Doc. 13279

Meynen Nick, 2012, Greek police chase demonstrators for seven kilometers, beating them up

Theodora Oikonomides and Zoe Mavroudi, 2013, Skouries: an ancient forest is Greece’s latest battle-ground, Union Solidarity International

Mining Watch Canada, 2013, Gold and Democracy Don’t Mix – Eldorado Gold Faces Determined Opposition in Greece

SOS Halkidiki, Women's Open Letter

Petition: Solidarity with the struggling women in Halkidiki, Greece

Kallis Giorgos, 2012, The rise of a new extractivism and the plea for degrowth

Amnesty International, 2012, Policing demonstration in the European Union, p. 9

Mining company accused of transporting toxic materials illegally, 2013, Journal Eleftherotypia, ENET English

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

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

Overview of the investment and the mobilizations.

Yorgos Avgeropoulos, 2011-2012, THE MIDAS EFFECT, Small Planet Documentary Production

Russian Today, 2013, Ecology vs Economy: Dirty gold dig split Greeks in Chalkidiki

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.

Yorgos Avgeropoulos, 2012-2013, GOLDEN TIMES - CASSANDRA'S TREASURE , Small Planet Documentary Production

Halkidiki Protest against ElDorado Gold Mining Company 3rd August 2013

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.

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.

Meta information

Contributor:Ermioni Frezouli, Geography Department - Harokopio University Athens (HUA).
Last update18/08/2019



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)