Syriza's crusade against Canadian-owned gold mine puts thousands of jobs at risk in Greece

'It's Aristotle's homeland, it doesn't need a mine to flourish', claims left-wing MP

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The Independent Online

Greece’s radical-left government has promised to roll back privatisation of state assets. Now thousands of jobs are under threat by Athens’ crusade against a Canadian-owned gold mine.

Panagiotis Lafazanis, the environment and energy minister, has vowed to stop the expansion of the Skouries mine – one of the biggest foreign investments in Greece since the crisis. 

Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold has invested more than €350m (£259m) in the mine in the peninsula of Halkidiki in northern Greece. About 2,000 people work there, with Eldorado Gold saying they will hire another 1,000 this year. But Mr Lafazanis said this week that he would try to halt the project.

The Skouries saga is a long-standing one. Campaigning against gold mine extensions has persisted for years, but it was not until the Canadian firm took over from Hellas Gold in 2012 that restless protesting began. Local communities fear that new technology used at the mine is bad for people’s health and the land.

The miners now feel they are caught in an unjust war between Athens and foreign investors. Giorgos Hatzis, 33, who acts as head of the area’s mine workers’ union, said: “All we want to do is provide for our families.  There’s nothing about the investment that’s illegal or harmful, and the contribution to the economy is immense.”

But Lola Xrysuli, 38, said: “I have been out of work for years and I understand the miners’ fears. But they have to realise that until those mines shut down there’s no future here for anyone.”

Syriza MP, Katerina Igletzi, said: “The government has stressed it opposes the investment, but will do everything to secure jobs. Halkidiki is a unique place with true natural beauty. It’s Aristotle’s homeland, it doesn’t need a mine to flourish.”

Eduardo Moura, Eldorado Gold’s vice-president for Greece, said that the mine enjoys “strong support from local communities and labour unions”. He added: “We are disappointed with the minister’s statement, but, for the time being, it is business as usual”.