Greek Forests Razed To Make Way For Gold Mine

Forests untouched for hundreds of years are being razed to make way for a gold mine in northern Greece. Those behind the project say it will provide up to 2,000 jobs and revenue from taxes, both more than needed in a debt-ridden country entering its sixth year of recession and relying on bailout funds from international creditors. But residents of the area, Chalkidiki, and citizens’ groups backed by opposition party Syriza, have been trying to stop the project since 2011.

With its beaches and mountains covered in forests, Chalkidiki is a popular vacation area for Greeks and foreign tourists. Groves of oaks and beeches that have been untouched for more than 300 years are already being felled to make way for the gold mine. Hellas Gold, a Greek company that is 95 percent owned by Canada’s Eldorado Gold Corporation, hold mining licenses for a 122-square mile area described as a “wealth reservoir” that could contain some 20 billion euros of lead, zinc, silver and copper as well as gold.

The company claims that it will “follow strict EU and Greek environmental, health and safety regulations” for “responsible mining,” says ABC News. Deputy Energy and Environment Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou has cited Greece’s economic woes as why “we owe it to ourselves to ensure the best possible exploitation of wealth this country has to offer to drive growth and bolster the economy.”

Opponents have long been questioning how great any financial gains will truly be. Greece stands to gain jobs and revenue taxes from the mine, while other countries have also (as is common in mining contracts) received royalties. As Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza, has said, “The Greek state has nothing to gain but environmental cost from the investment.”

Those costs were indicated in a June report from the World Wide Fund for Nature in Athens, says the New York Times:

…standards are widely being ignored or lowered, affecting air, water and land use, from the reduction of mandatory environmental impact reviews to plans for increasing coal use and the likelihood that 95 percent of Greece’s environmental fund — more than $1 billion collected for projects like improving energy efficiency and sustaining nature conservancies — will be absorbed into the general government budget.

The extent of what the WWF report describes as “avalanche of serious environmental losses” is all the more glaring as Greece, a country of great natural beauty, had recently seemed on a path for green energy. After his election in 2009, former Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou had created the Environment, Energy and Climate Change Ministry and spoke of solar energy and eco-tourism. In the midst of the financial crisis (that led to Papandreou resigning), the environmental minister was replaced with former financial minister George Papaconstantinou (who has since been drawn into a scandal about his taking the names of his family members off a list of wealthy Greeks with Swiss bank accounts).

In Chalkidiki, 420 acres of trees are to be cleared for an open mining pit and a series of tunnels to be dug; the company claims it will fill over and replant the pit once work is done. Residents of villages near the site are fearful of dust and ground water pollution. Armed with environmental studies from Thessaloniki University and statements from the Technical Chamber of Greece, a scientific body advising the government, they have been protesting locally (surrounding the city hall of one northern Greek village) and in Athens.

As Christos Adamidis, a hotelier who fears that the mining will destroy tourism to Chalkidiki, says, “This will be a business for 10, maybe 15 years, and then this company will just disappear, leaving all the pollution behind like all the others did. And in the meantime, the dust this will create will be killing off the leaves. There will be no goats or olives or bees here” — only a covered-over pit shorn of trees and life.


Related Care2 Coverage

5 Reasons Europe is Headed For a Rocky 2013

5 Reasons Democracy Is At Risk In the Country Where It Was Born

Euro Crisis: Would You Like To Buy a Greek Island?

Photo of Chalkidiki from Thinkstock


Franking Machines
Past Member 5 years ago

An enormous round of applause, continue the great work.
gold roth ira plans

Angela B.
Angela B.6 years ago


Carrie Anne Brown

sad news but thanks for sharing

Waheeda S.
Waheeda S6 years ago

I am certain there is a better way to get Greeks more jobs than destroying incredible forests!

Christina Robertson
Tina Robertson6 years ago

So where is the petition for us to sign? being a Canadian I absolutely hate what these mining companies are doing to countries in other parts of the world, especially third world countries in South America, Africa and Indonesia.

Our government needs to reign in these corporations who operate these mines and leave a disaster behind, As a Canadian I am ashamed and I am also very angry that they are tarnishing our reputation. No doubt Harper doesn't care, but we as Canadian citizens care.

Please let us have the link for the site of the petition !!

Melania Padilla
Melania P6 years ago

And all at the environtment´s.... Shame!!!

Mark Donners
Mark Donner6 years ago

Sorry but there is NO excuse left for Canada. Canada is engaging on an all out assault on the future of the earth with that criminal psychopath Harper and his threats, extortion and bribes for, as you put it, purely for MONEY, that is personal immoral selfish greed, and to hell with our childrens' future. Business is just another excuse like all excuses for crimes anywhere they happen, business, "culture" whatever, if such crimes are a business in Canada then no business in Canada deserves to exist period. Harper has sabotaged climate talks, Canada ranks up there with the worst environment villains on the earth, China included. As well as his filthiest oil on earth tar sands attacks, Harper sabatoges climate talks, he blocks animal cruelty and endangered species protection laws, he promotes horrific wildlife massacre bloodbaths, such as the harp seal pup bloodbaths (ignoring that Canada has been banned and boycotted by the entire world for that atrocity) and many other less publicized ones like elk massacres and endangered polar bear trophy hunts. He indulges in massive land and air pollution and clearcutting of old growth. Along with his crushing of laws upholding human rights, and his arms peddling and warmongering, Harper has presented himself as threat not only to Canada but to the future of the entire earth.

Ken H.
Ken H6 years ago

@ Mark D.........I hope you are joking,Canada has its own problems with out of country mining companies wanting to mine here.I think most countries have problems with their gov. they elected.......i dont think Harper is going to pull off a 3rd term,to help in that matter i'm going to vote for the very first time in my life.

I'm not against mining,but i fully believe any mining company needs to include everyone effected by their project and that they keep their project running on how it was agreed upon.Mining is a business,i think you would find it hard to find a business not in the business of making money.Even when the land is reclaimed and planted,its hard to replace a 300 yr old forest,but a open pit mine is massive.....i can see why some people wouldn't want it,but i cant see how you can blame Canada,i'm surprised China is not involved with this.

Gale Thomasson
Gale T6 years ago

What idiots.

Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence6 years ago

Destroy, destroy, destroy that is all that is done ..and sadly it keeps on happening:(