Words and photos from YLNM members ContraMINAccion.
Over the Christmas holidays members of the Plataforma pola defensa de Corcoesto e Bergantiños travelled to Megali Panagia, a town from Halkidiki in Greek Macedonia, very close to the Skouries mine.
Halkidiki, the third most popular tourist destination in Greece, is now threatened by a project involving 317 sq km of mining concessions, underground workings and a new opencast mine in Skouries. According to the company, creating the Skouries mine alone involves digging a crater 700 meters in diameter, although it will probably be much larger.
Local communities and environmental organisations have opposed this mining project from the outset, backed up by negative reports by independent scientific organizations. However, this opposition has been brutally repressed and scientific reports ignored. Meanwhile, many murky transactions over mining rights, illegal tax breaks, private road construction borne by the State, and so on, have taken place.
Today, the company has already begun its activities in various parts of the area, with use of explosives and excavations, raft building and installation of the necessary equipment to carry out their project. The mine’s construction phase will project huge amounts of dust, loaded with toxic substances (heavy metals, arsenic and cyanide) up to 700 meters into the air. This toxic dust will inevitably fall back down onto agricultural land and into surrounding villages. By building a huge raft of mud will also endanger the largest reservoir of water that serves the area in Kakkavos, and ultimately the sustainable future of the region.
Our colleagues from Megali Panagia escorted us to see the destruction. It was impossible not to be moved when seeing the most beautiful virgin forest of beech and oak with those enormous wounds. Impossible not to feel pain when we “step into the shoes” of those people who have already spent 10 years fighting and nowsee how a foreign company will annihilate their future, destroying the whole area with such a pernicious activity.
We were amazed to see the amount of wood felled and heaped on roadsides. That wood, undisputedly owned by local people, went straight to the company, which will increase its own revenues by selling it on.
We also visited the place where the group opposed to the mine meets and participated in one of their radio programs, exchanging views on how the fight against mining has been carried out in their place and ours.
People who oppose the mine in Megali Panagia informed us that it is precisely now, when the Siryza Party that led the fight against Halkidiki’s mine governs, that the mining project is moving ahead faster and their struggle must become more committed. They regard delegating the struggle against mining to in political organizations as a big mistake and believe that what matters is to keep the direct and continuous struggle of the people going.
From the Plataforma pola defensa de Corcoesto e Bergantiños, now stronger than ever, we want to show our solidarity with the struggle of the Greek people against extractivism, and particularly with our colleagues from Megali Panagia and with their sorrow at what is happening there.
Corcoesto, January 4th, 2016