Athens, Greece – The fate of one of Greece’s biggest foreign investments hung in the balance on Wednesday as relations between the government and Canada’s Eldorado Gold Corporation reached a breaking point.
Push, literally, came to shove outside the energy and environment ministry as dozens of yellow-vested miners tried to force their way past a blue wall of riot police to gain an audience with Energy Minister Yiorgos Stathakis.
“The miners are going crazy. They don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” said Yiorgos Hatzis, a senior member of one of the four unions that chartered overnight buses from northern Greece to picket the ministry.
At stake are 2,400 jobs and a $3bn investment into what was once touted as Europe’s largest gold-mining operation. Instead, says Eldorado, it is becoming a bottomless pit of expenditure and delay that now threatens to suck in the Greek government’s reputation for attracting desperately needed investment.
The trouble began on Monday when Eldorado announced it would suspend all its operations, located chiefly on the Kassandra peninsula in Chalkidike, because the government has held back operating licenses.
Massive, rock-pulverising machinery is sitting in crates at its Skouries mine, and the company recently cancelled the unveiling of a new processing plant at its Olympias operation, because its temporary operating license runs out on September 21. Between them, the two locations are thought to contain eight million ounces of gold, currently worth more than $10bn, as well as silver, copper and lead.
“Should we not receive these permits, we will be suspending our investment and moving into full care and maintenance mode beginning September 22nd,” said Eldorado President and CEO George Burns.
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Stathakis on Wednesday told workers the government would be renewing the Olympias permit, obviating a shutdown.
“That’s news to us,” commented a…