In the latest chapter of an ongoing fight over resource extraction, foreign investment, and environmental degradation, a Canadian mining company appealed to Greece's top court on Friday to overturn a ban on its plans to develop a gold mine in the forested peninsula of Halkidiki.
A day before resigning to call a general election in August, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government revoked Eldorado Gold's permit for the Halkidiki mine, citing environmental concerns and violations of contract terms.
"When there is a contract signed with the Greek state, this should be respected," Greek Energy Minister Panos Skourletis said at the time. "This is not because we want to cause investors trouble but because we want to protect the environment."
According to Reuters: "Greece has said Eldorado should have conducted tests of the so called flash-melting method to ensure its mining activities will not harm the environment at the site. The company has done such tests in Finland."
The leftist Syriza party has long opposed the mine, stating earlier this year: "Eldorado Gold must realize that beautiful Halkidiki is not its property, it is not all powerful in the country." Nor, they added, is the region "a 'lab rat' of environmental destruction for its profits."
And Syriza MP Katerina Igletzi said in February: "Halkidiki is a unique place with true natural beauty. It’s Aristotle’s homeland, it doesn’t need a mine to flourish."
As Mining Watch Canada explained in 2013:
The Skouries mine, on mount Kakavos, is the main source of conflict with the local people. More than 340 hectares of unique forest, parts of which are old-growth forest, will have to be wiped out in order to make way for the mining facilities, including a 700 metre wide, 200 metre deep pit as well as a flotation plant, two tailings facilities, and various other facilities. So far, 340 hectares of public forest in Skouries has been ceded to the company by the regional administration. The area of the second tailings facility, 92 hectares, doesn’t belong to the state but to a Mount Athos monastery. For the citizens of the nearby towns, a major concern is water. Mount Kakavos holds the largest water reserves in the entire Halkidiki peninsula, which already suffers from water shortages.
These economic and environmental concerns feed into the social impacts from the mining developments. Halkidiki and Thrace are nearby to where Eldorado has begun digging the mine’s open pits and clear cutting forested area. Since late 2011, there has been growing opposition by the residents, and growing police attention.
What's more, a report from the Dutch Center for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) published earlier this year showed that Eldorado Gold finances its Greek operations using internal loans, shifting interest payments from a Greek subsidiary, Hellas Gold SA, via Dutch mailbox companies to its Barbados subsidiary—where this income remains untaxed.
While we respect the protest of the workers, we do not accept the reprehensible tactics of the multinational Eldorado Gold and its domestic supporters who are using the workers and their concerns to cover up illegalities and illicit and environmentally damaging practices which threaten Halkidiki and its citizens.
We want to stress that Eldorado Gold is not a state within a state and cannot use the workers and their concerns as a ‘shield’ in order to seek ‘asylum’ - in order to seek to remain above the law and in order to cover up infringements and destructive choices.
According to Canada's Globe and Mail, after hearing oral arguments for about two hours on Friday, the Greek court gave both sides until October 7 to make full written submissions.