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Miners want their job, the government chases away investors

16 April 2015 / 16:04:57  GRReporter
1657 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

Over 7,500 miners and members of their families arrived in Athens to express their support for the operation of the gold mines in the region of Skouries on Halkidiki. They protested against the decision of the SYRIZA government to block the clearing of 300 hectares of forest area where a metal processing plant should be built, according to the Canadian investor company Eldorado Gold. Early this March the Ministry of Development, Environment and Energy reviewed the protocols approved by the previous leadership of the institution and although it did not reveal any violations it still blocked the clearing of the forest area in question.

The decision of the SYRIZA government is not surprising to anyone, in view of the fact that the party openly stood behind the protests that have been organized in the region of Skouries over the past three years.

"We are here to defend our job that the government wants to take from us for unknown reasons. We will stay here as long as necessary to protect our right to work. We are ready to meet only with the Prime Minister. We have already talked with all relevant ministers but none of them has provided a solution for us," George Hatzis, president of Agia Varvara Association of Miners and Employees in the Gold Mines told GRReporter.

The opponents of the investment, including many members of SYRIZA, argue that the investment threatens the environment in northeastern Halkidiki. The representatives of various environmental organizations held a series of protests, but the miners state that they seemingly involved only residents of the region.

Two weeks ago, the area around the mine again became a stage for clashes during which opponents of the operation of the mine even threw metal bolts at the miners. "There is no conflict at the local level. The true inhabitants of the region support the investment. Those who oppose it come from elsewhere. They are taken there to cause tension, scare the people and attack the employees. We do not know what interests they are serving but we are determined not to allow this to continue. The investment in question will create 2,500 jobs and provide economic development and money for the entire region. There is no objective problem to prevent the mine from operating. The only problem is political and it lies in the objectives of certain parties that are playing games on the shoulders of workers," said Hatzis.


Currently, the two other mines in Olympiada and Stratoni, which are operated by the Canadian company, are mining lead and zinc. The implementation of the disputed investment will lead to the mining of other metals.

"The mines in the region have existed since ancient times. The name of the peninsula Halkidiki (chalcos - copper ore) comes from them too. The campaign of Alexander the Great was fully financed by the mines. So, the mines have been working for thousands of years without causing any environmental problems," added the representative of miners.

In his words, Canada’s investors have not yet decided to leave Greece. "The company does not know how to act in a country that, despite its financial problems, is chasing away investors. The Managing Director states that he finds it difficult to explain the situation to the Management Board in Canada and to forecast the course of this investment, since the Greek government is against it. This is a great concern for us," said George Hatzis.

After the protest outside the Ministry, the miners, their families and the administrative staff of the Canadian company held a procession to Syntagma Square.

Their move seems to have caused turmoil in SYRIZA. The Greek media report that the commotion is caused by the fact that representatives of the party leadership had supported the miners in 2003, when they were on hunger strike in protest against the failure of the company TVX that operated the mines.

Sources from the Ministry of Development, Environment and Energy state for the online economic edition, "We will protect the environment and the public interest from any interests, and we will not accept that Eldorado can act as a state within a state". The Ministry is adamant that it will not allow the clearing of the forest area until the Supreme Administrative Court announces its decision on the complaint that has been submitted in connection with the case.

Sources close to the investor company in turn state that only the competent department of the Supreme Administrative Court can block the clearing of the area of ​​300 hectares until the final decision is issued.

The commotion among the government has spread to the media that are close it. They define the protest of miners as a "procession - provocation." A publication on the site notes, "The demonstration is particularly supported by the television stations of the corrupt circles through continuous broadcasts".

The Athenian representatives of the opponents of the investment in Skouries that the media define as "catastrophic" will hold at 06:00 pm a protest and procession in front of the University of Athens that is under anarchist occupation for the 17th consecutive day.

According to sources, the police have taken measures to prevent the two groups participating in the protest from running into each other for fear of possible clashes between them.


Tags: SocietyProtestMinersMinesHalkidikiInvestmentGovernmentSYRIZACompanies
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