By Brent Patterson, Political director of the Council of Canadians.
Twitter photo of the Skouries mine; January 15, 2015.
The Council of Canadians and Blue Planet Project have worked with Greek allies to oppose Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold’s Skouries project – an open pit gold mine and processing plant – which is set to open this year near the town of Ierissos in the Halkidiki peninsula of northern Greece.
In May 2013, we helped support a tour with three people from Greece to highlight their concerns about the mine with people in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. Just a couple months earlier, our friend Maria Kadoglou, one of the speakers on this tour, spoke against the mine on CBC Radio’s As It Happens.
We also encouraged our supporters to watch this documentary for the International Action Day Against Gold Mines in Halkidiki. And we supported their interventions at the World Social Forum as well as posting numerous campaign blogs on the situation there, including one highlighting that 15,000 people had marched on the Canadian consulate in Thessaloniki in opposition to this gold mine.
About 3,300 acres of primeval forest were cut down to clear the area for the mine, plant, roads and an area to dump the mine’s toxic tailings waste. This destruction is happening near the birthplace of the Greek philosopher Aristotle who would have walked in these woods more than two thousand years ago.
The New York Times has reported, “Only 10 years ago, [opponents of the mine] point out, Greece’s highest court ruled that the amount of environmental damage that mining would do here was not worth the economic gain. Opponents [also] worry about dust and ground water pollution.” Three university professors in Greece, who teach forestry, mountain water settlement, and forest soil, have also noted their strong concerns about the impact of the forest removal for the Skouries mine on the hydrological cycle.
The mine was able to proceed because the troika of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission forced Greece under its austerity program to streamline their environmental approval processes for mines and other environmentally-damaging projects.