February 18, 2013
In the region called Skouries in Chalkidiki in the North of Greece we have the ideal setting for an escalating outburst with terrible dimensions over the entire society of the country. The exploitation of the gold mines has been attributed by the Greek state to the Greek Gold Company, a joint venture of the Canadian multinational company Eldorado Gold and the Greek company AKTOR, stirring up an unexpected -to many- strife over the fate of the community and the sustainability of the local society.
The situation is incomparably complex. The decision for the exploitation of the mines was conceded by ministerial decree on 2011, when Minister of Environment was Mr. George Papakonstantinou, the ex-Minister of Finance being allegedly involved in purposed forgery over the Lagarde List, and lately being under scrutiny by the Greek Parliament and the justice. In addition to that, the exploitation model for the gold mines is considered to be an experimental one, never being applied in similar cases, and with high risk rating over the population and the nature of the region. The Ministry of Environment firmly states that this is not true, but there is no proof to support this argument.
The local society is outrageous with this development. The first reason is that one of the oldest forests in the regions is going to be entirely cut. This will inevitably create a number of issues, with most pending amongst them the flood management and the fate of thousands of nature species and the wild life. What is more, the Greek Gold Company is planning to use a method of drilling which entails amidst other the well-known poisonous chemical element arsenic which will end up in the water streams of the area, and finally to the houses of the people as potable water.
Behind this method, we find a global system of illusive interests which stems from the quest of copper in lower prices throught delicate treatment and elaboration of synthetic reserves with high rate of arsenic. This is addionally the problem of many mines in Latin America and Southeastern Asia that have not been exploited yet, and there are ongoing research initiatives to deal with this issue. Nonetheless, in the Greek case, there is no prediction nor pre-emptive elaboration of such questions as what is struggled for is the concentration of increased profits even against the public good and the health conditions of an entire society.
A couple of days ago, a group of 40 people carried with guns endeavored and achieved to cause significant damages in the infrastructure, vehicles, and offices of the company. For many it was at least surprising to see people carrying guns, but for the locals it was something to expect. But this is not the only issue of concern. The employers of the company and the locals are turned against each other and there are plenty of times that struggles are taking place in daily basis.
It is of a wider concern that the actual situation in Skouries can enact extreme conditions of security and social stability. And the fundamental question here is how the authorities, the locals, the company and the employers will finally achieve to control the situation. It has been two years now that conflicts have taken an incremental pace, and there are fears that in case no development is reached, we could possibly expect further tension and struggle with dire consequences.Dimitris Rapidis