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Thousands of workers protest disputed gold mine in Athens

From PressTV

Wed Mar 13, 2013
Constantine Venizelos, PressTV, Athens

Another day of protests in Greece. This time thousands in the capital Athens take to the streets against a disputed gold mine project in the country’s north. Demonstrators say the project is ruining the environment in the region, while bringing zero profit to the cash-strapped nation.

“We want the land, the water and the trees, not a golden tomb”, chanted thousands of Greeks, marching in support of the local community in the Skouries region of Chalkidiki, in northern Greece.

The environmental impact of gold mining in the 317 thousand sq. km region is severe, say the protesters. There is almost a gram of gold in every ton of soil in the area. Hundreds of thousands of tons of earth will have to be dug out, cutting through a protected natural forest, then chemically processed using arsenic, cadmium and other toxic chemicals.

These will irreversibly damage local agriculture and fishing and pose a grave health risk for the entire region, as a gigantic cloud of dust looms over it and toxic damps are built to house the processed soil.

We spoke to activist and mathematics professor Antonis Vardoulakis, from the Aristotelian University in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, only 100 km from the region in question.

Ninety-five percent of the gold mine in Skouries belongs to Canadian multinational company Eldorado Gold and five percent to Hellas Gold, a private company owned by Fotis and George Bobolas, Greece’s construction tycoons and media moguls.

Astoundingly, the Greek State owns zero percent royalties in the gold mines in Skouries and another three regional gold and silver mines. Futhermore, in 2011, the Greek government was the intermediary for the transfer of ownership between the current and former owner companies, for a mere 11 million euros.

The gold mining project in Northern Greece is fast becoming one of the most controversial stories in the crisis-stricken country. Apart from the environmental hazard, there is no apparent evidence the gold mines will bring financial prosperity in the regional community, or increase cash-flow into the state coffers.