Following a February 17th arson attack against the newly settled mining worksite of Hellas Gold (95% Eldorado Gold, 5% Aktor) in the forest of Skouries (Halkidiki, N. Greece), residents of Ierissos blocked the road in order to prevent the Police from searching the houses of suspects. Riot police reportedly made extensive use of tear gas, even spraying the local school yard and affecting a number of schoolchildren.
Despite the opening of over 1,500 jobs in an area suffering from high levels of unemployment, the mining project in Halkidiki has sparked a mounting anti-gold movement that sees it as proof of Greece’s “free-for-all” development policy, no matter the cost to the environment and quality of life. Anti-gold protests are also a reflection of a widespread distrust against the Government and its promises that the environmental conditions of this and all major investments will be closely monitored.
Although Skouries is not legally designated an area of special protection, it nevertheless hosts a healthy forest ecosystem, comprising primarily of beech and oak, as well as thick maquis. Opponents to the investment challenge the Skouries project on environmental cost-benefit grounds and uphold their right to a well preserved ecosystem and clean water resources.
The investment is pending a court case at the level of the Council of State (Greek supreme court-CoS). On March 21st, the CoS rejected an appeal by local citizens and associations for temporary suspension of the forest clearing works at Skouries. A final CoS decision on the legality of the ministerial approval the EIA is pending.