Friday, 8 March 2013

The Struggle against the National Selloffs in Greece-A Story of Gold (Skouries), Repression and Multinationals


In the Eye of the Storm-Kassandra Minerals

This area has from antiquity had rich mineral seams. So far 33 tonnes have been excavated.

Greek Gold (Ellinikos Hrisos) a company owned by Bobolas (owns media interests and the road tolls) purchased it from the Greek state for Euros 11m. This company purchased 300,000 acres around 300 houses, two underground seams and machinery for drilling, storing and processing mineral extraction and 30,000 sq m of office space. Another forest is added of 4,000 sq m and Papakonstantinou (ex-finance Minister under Papandreou) agrees to hand it over to the company ‘free of charge’. A study of Environmental Impact set up by government agencies is ignored (gross environmental destruction of an area of natural beauty, destruction of underground water routes, impact on tourist industry etc.)

                               This aint Gaza or Egypt but an old lady in Greece 

Greek Gold Corp was bought out by European Goldfields who then go on to sell it to Eldorado Gold Corp for Euro 1.8b, its stock market valuation becomes E2.3b and the reserves in seams amount to E15.5 billion.

The mineral extraction goes against areas designated as of ecological importance (NATURA 2000) (article 6 paragraph 3-4 of regulation 92/94 of EEC) and Greek inspection agencies just turn a blind eye. The company does what it wants without following any building regulations, or regulations regarding mineral extraction such as what is to happen to seams after they have been opened, or restoration of mined areas etc.

In one of the seams they are creating an open pit of 700m wide and 140m under the surface of the sea and over a 25 year period they are expected to mine 380 million tonnes of gold i.e. around 15m tonnes a year. At the $1.5k and 1 tonne equivalent of 32,000 ounces we are talking of an annual return of $7b which, taking into account the initial investment, is just a licence to print money (sorry: gold!). This is without taking into account the fluctuations in the gold price which over a long period of time always goes up in relation to paper currencies.

No provision is made within the Greek state for royalties for this type of mineral extraction. Various universities have carried out studies that this type of open smelting and the nature of the extraction of separating the gold from other minerals is extremely destructive to the local environment and the associated costs (environmental, social, loss of other business etc.) and the fact that this type of gross mineral extraction for a multinational does not bode well for the local populations of this area.

Effects on the Local Populations

There are many knock-on effects in tourism, agriculture, animal husbandry, bee growing, forestry, bio-agriculture, water streams for the use of farming. Here are some of the impact assessments: there are 816 bee growers there which constitute 10% of the bee growers in Greece; there are 100 000 acres of cultivated land and 275 000 acres of land used for grazing. Forests are used for their wood, other areas for natural herbs (medicine etc.). All of this is endangered by the destruction of the forest of Kokkavos. The dust from the mineral extraction will move like a storm in the whole region, destroying plant life and heavy metals entering the food chain from the mineral extraction of such immense proportions.

                                     Stunning natural beaches to be destroyed 

The impact of tourism on the economy of N E Halkidiki is alleged to be in the region of 15-20% of GDP. This type of economic looting will bring about an immeasurable attack on tourism of the area, and will undermine the quality of life. The mountain area of Kakkavos supplies the whole region with water. El Dorado Gold ignores another EC ruling 60/2000EC: ‘Maintaining a framework for common action on water policy’ which was added onto Greek legislation by the law of 3199/2003. The needs of water for mineral extraction will be equivalent to the needs of 40k citizens and it is predicted that water levels which are +640m above sea level will drop to -140m with a consequent massive destruction of underground water tables. Dust will be produced at the equivalent rate of 4,324 tonnes an hour and the whole region will be equivalent to what occurs in Ptolemaida (the area where electricity is generated through the extraction of lignite which covers 40% of Greece’s electricity needs and the EU wants banned!). There will be very large quantities of arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, metals, nickel, mercury etc.


The table shows how far the mineral dust will go and affect a whole region.

Peaceful Resistance to El Dorado Gold by the citizens of Ierissos and Skouries

Timeline of Police Repression

13.03.2011 Ierissos’ First big demonstration in which hundreds took part in this town which is closest to the Company’s activities.

20.03.2012 Skouries demonstration in the mountain area by 30 citizens. 500 of the company employees attack the locals and the police stood by as people were beaten up.

25.03.2012 Big Tree, Halkidiki had a big demo of all the citizens of the district on a national holiday and a very large force of police confronted them, not allowing them to proceed in a public area. Then with no reason the police attacked the citizens with tear gas and stun grenades. People tried to escape but they were caught short and ambushed by another group of riot police who had planned their entrapment when they retreated.

14.04.2012 Skouries Halkidiki. On 14th April six women went in two cars to the public area of the Kakavos mountain range but in the Skouries point there was a blockade with men from a private security company who were wearing masks. They asked the women for their ID but they refused. After writing down their number plates, they were allowed to continue past the roadblock. But then two farming trucks from Greek Gold threatened them, abusing them and stating they will be blamed for any future problems with Greek Gold Corp, 20 women were held hostage for and the private security company called the police.

05.08.2012 Skouries Halkidiki. Another peaceful demonstration towards the Skouries region and strong police forces refused permission to march despite its having a written confirmation by a public prosecutor. During the negotiations the police forces started to tear gas the people, threw stun grenades and even used plastic bullets. The constant use of tear gas provoked fires in the forest and the fire brigade had to turn up to put them out. In the evening the citizens of Ierissos symbolically blocked the road and they warned the oncoming drivers by distributing information leaflets. After a while they were attacked again.

Citizens and tourists under the guise of damage allegedly made to the local town hall were tear gassed and people were shot at directly rather than rounds being fired in the air. The occupation forces left at midnight.

09.09.2012 Skouries Halkidiki Another peaceful demonstration against the expansion of the company and this time there was a helicopter above the offices of Greek Gold Ltd. along with a very big police presence. With the arrival of the first protestors they were attacked directly with teargas volleys, stun grenades and plastic bullets. People retreated and they were chased by the police. Many demonstrators were injured including the MP Vangelis Diamantopoulos of SYRIZA and a German demonstrator. The biggest injury was the trauma a demonstrator received to his spleen from being hit directly by a tear gas volley.

Riot police militarise the conflict with tear gas and plastic bullets
In October 2012 the police officers union lodged a complaint that illegal procedures were occurring through the use by the police for the private interests of gold mining in Halkidiki without any crime having occurred and without them following correct procedure i.e. article 22 of Law 3938/2011.

21.10.2012 Skouries Halkidiki. More than 2,500 people met at the ‘Big Tree’ to demonstrate against gold mining in their area. Around 300 remained in this spot whilst the rest marched in the wood towards Skouries. After 7km of walking the police blocked further movement. Fire occurred in the forest and the police and demonstrators together went to put it out. Whilst there, there was a standoff and the head of the strong police force said that they wouldn’t use tear gas as happened to the first demonstrators. The demonstrators, women, pensioners etc. retreated once more, and many fell on top of each other and were trodden on; those who remained too close to police lines were beaten up by the police.

Many relatives brought cars to the area to remove the demonstrators and those injured. But the police chased everyone for around 7km. The police attacked some of the convoys as well as breaking car windows, throwing tear gas inside cars, beating up injured protestors. During the attacks the riot police cheered on the attackers and there are eye-witnesses who allege their superiors tried to contain the attacks, for any death would have immense consequences for all involved.

Many were arrested for ridiculous charges, one man for losing control of his vehicle after they had fired a tear gas volley in it. They were refused legal representation and charged with ‘attacking the riot police’.

Demonstration in Thessaloniki against El Dorado Gold Corp

25.10.2012 Poligoros Halkidiki. More than 2000 citizens converged on the Ministry of Justice and had a demo in support of the arrested


18.11.2012 Megali Panagia Halkidiki. Demonstration inside the village then a march towards the Kakavos mountain range.


24.11.2012 Thessaloniki Massive demo with more than 8000 people against the destructive mineral extraction in Halkidiki, Kilkis, Thrace. Petitions were handed to the Mayor of Thessaloniki and the Canadian Consul in the city.


Stop the Crime! Stop the Collusion! section of the Thessaloniki demonstration


                                             Outside the Greek Parliament

12.01.13 Athens. 500 citizens travel down from Halkidiki for a demonstration in Athens outside Parliament and the Canadian Embassy.


24.02.2013 Megali Panagia Halkidi. Thousands of citizens from all of Greece demonstrate against the gold mining company once more.


Above is a summary of 26 page bulletin set up by the committee of resistance to El Dorado Gold


'Direct Action' against Multinational Corporate Looting and Destruction of Greece

What happened next is that the offices of the Gold mining company in Skourries were attacked and burnt down. The goverment said 50 masked men did it and that they had broken the cameras. Then they circulated videos of the attack from the same broken down cameras showing a few masked men. This cannot be explained other than it being a provocation by themselves to blame the surrounding opposition.

Experience of Keratea: Lessons Learned or Errors to be Repeated?

When Papandreou was in charge with Pangalos (the beached whale) as Vice President, they used alleged EU rules to impose a dump site next to an established community without even having the decency to ask them. The conflict continued unabated with police brutality. But the citizens, without political party domination, continued on their own. They had nowhere to go. This was their houses, their community and they defended themselves up to initiating direct action (modern urban guerrilla warfare). They got night diggers and without the police realising they dug up a main road cutting it in half overnight which meant their area would be cut off from police reinforcements.

They ceaselessly confronted the riot police, tying them down to breaking point. It was heard that their superiors complained to the government that this is the job for an army, not the riot police! Pangalos admitted after the fall of Papandreou that, due to popular protests, the IMF programme could not work after the defeat in Keratea.

House to House Searches and Arrests

Under the pretext of the attacks they started to storm the village of Ierissos arresting most men and doing DNA tests along with body and house searches.  They terrorised the population, acting like an occupation army (like Hitlers or the Ottomans) that Greeks have become familiar with in their previous history.

Privatisation and the looting of the natural resources of the country for the sake of large multinational corporations is occurring at the same time as a distinct process of militarisation against all peaceful resistance.

Role of the Left-Syriza

Apart from individual participation, the organised forces of the Left are once more unable to provide a correct focus to the issue which in fact emphasises how in practice the looting of Greece is proceeding apace. Government Ministers sign over national land for its mineral wealth to large multinational corporations and they obviously have a wide range of ‘commissioning’ activities in their contract bidding (offshore bank accounts made familiar from the Siemens bribery contracts, then require the local police forces to do the ‘policing’ (enforcing the contracts Cochabamba - Bolivian style) and now they are heading into a Nigerian-Columbia (BP buys army protection) situation where, in order to police the areas surrounding the goldmining sites, there is talk of using foreign mercenaries (ex-Blackwater) or possible use of the army.

SYRIZA is on the pathway to continue where Dimar (Kouvelis-Dem Left) left off is even advertising the GoldMining company in its paper, in the picture below.

Avgi-Syrizas paper advertising Hellas Gold

The advertisement says ‘One of the Biggest Investments which Greece has Known’With Society Next to Us’!!!

Whatever happens next, one thing is sure: the locals have a chance of winning as they did in Keratea. They have nowhere to go and they can block the exits and entrances to the Goldmining facilities. The mass mobilisations and the unprovoked police attacks which reached the level of tear gassing local schools, arresting little girls to enrage their parents, will provoke even more fury. Out of these popular struggles a new order will be built, one that takes into account the wishes and desires of those who live and toil the land.

VN Gelis

8th March 2013


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