Greece suspends work at Canadian-run gold mine

AP News
Posted: Aug 19, 2015 2:23 PM

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The Greek government has temporarily halted work at a Canadian-run gold mine in the north after determining the company had violated some terms of the concession, Greece's energy minister said Wednesday.

Hellenic Gold, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold, violated the terms of its technical studies and losing approvals for those means work in the mine's Skouries area is on hold, Energy and Environment Minister Panos Skourletis said after a meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

According to documents released by the ministry, the violations concern a project to build a copper and gold processing plant, including not carrying out certain tests on the flash smelting process proposed for use. According to the decision, the suspension will be lifted if the company re-submits the necessary documentation and meets the requirements within a year.

Hellenic Gold managing director Michalis Theodorakopoulos voiced surprise at the decision.

"Hellenic Gold has never broken the law. (It) is now at the stage of assessing the ministerial decision, with which we disagree, and which threatens the survival of 5,000 people," he said, adding that the company would "defend (itself) with all legal means at its disposal."

The controversial mining project has met with fierce resistance from those saying it will irreparably damage the environment in northern Greece. But as a major foreign investment, it has been seen as a test case for Greece's ability to attract international investors as it battles a deep financial crisis.

"For the government, investments are welcome. They are necessary, essential. But the companies must also respect the terms to which they have committed so as not to harm the public interest and the environment," Skourletis said.