Greece will soon give approval for the go-ahead of a gold mine project that has split residents in the region of northern Greece where it will be dug, pitting environmentalists against those who want the jobs the 230 million euros ($303.3 million) project will bring.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the government is keen on attracting more foreign investors and has given the green light. The Canadian company Eldorado Gold has been pushing to proceed although resistance has been strong and the offices on site near the town of Skouries were burned by arsonists earlier this month.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is also reportedly eager to dispel any sense that Greece doesn’t want investors and accelerated the permit process to quell further opposition.
The Thace project, which has been awaiting approval for months, is one of a complex of four gold and other mines that Eldorado has acquired in Greece over the past four years. The company has committed to invest another $1 billion over the next four years.
The Skouries gold and copper mine, which is on the Halkidiki peninsula in one of northern Greece’s most densely forested areas and a major tourist destination, has been at the center of controversy for some two decades. Many local residents oppose the new open-pit mine, saying it will destroy the environment and harm the area’s tourism potential.
To reassure company officials who visited Athens this week, the Greek government has promised to address security issues at the mine and, at the same time, cut through the red tape that has stalled approval for Eldorado’s planned investment in Thrace, the Journal reported.
“This kind of act cannot be tolerated. Greece is a modern European country, and we will at all costs protect foreign investment in the country,” Samaras said. “This is an investment that we very much want, and the whole procedure for the final approval will be finished within the next 10 days.”
With Greece in the sixth year of a recession and austerity measures creating a record 27 percent unemployment, the government is looking to create more jobs.
Combined, Eldorado’s four projects will provide some 2,000 jobs. The company aims to turn Greece into the largest gold producer in Europe. When all the mines are in full operation, the company estimates they will boost Greece’s exports by 1 billion euros ($1.32 billion)a year.
Eldorado’s Chief Executive Paul Wright said he was glad the government acted so quickly in the face of the arson. “The nature of that attack was significant; it was basically an act of terror, and we don’t engage in countries where there is terrorism,” he said. “We came to satisfy ourselves that the situation would be dealt with in a satisfactory manner, and we have now received those assurances.”