Skouries is the name of a open-pit and underground gold-mining project in the peninsula of Halkidiki, Greece. The exploiter of the mine, Hellas Gold, (owned for 95% by Eldorado Gold, a Canadian mining company who acquired the mine in 2011) is now at the stage of development, and the mine is due to open in 2016. Due to its destructive nature, residents of the area have been showing resistance to the project since its plans were announced in 2006, but have not succeeded in stopping the project.
While the mining company and the Greek government argue that foreign investment in Greece's weak economy is very much needed and the project will create jobs for local people, the opposition obviously seems less convinced. According to the Coordinating Committee of Associations of Stageira-Akanthos Against Gold Mining (also referred to as Soshalkidiki), “Eldorado Gold [is] […] backed by the Greek Government and central European Union policies, and fueled by the complex economic politics of the current Euro crisis, creating a profitable “golden monopoly” for itself.” Soshalkidiki has released a comprehensive rapport summarizing the social, economic and environmental impacts of gold mining in Halkidiki and argues that the mining operation will destroy forests in the area, contaminate groundwater and pollute the air with chemical substances like lead, mercury and arsenic.
Skouries and the Greek crisis
While resistance against the Skouries goldmine does not necessary directly follow from the economic crisis in Greece, indirectly these subjects cannot be seen separate from each other. On one hand they are inseparable since the project relies on the crisis in order to realize itself. According to MiningWatch Canada, “Eldorado has [..] taken advantage of the economic crisis to put increasing pressure on Greek authorities, as evidenced by the 'fast track' designation granted under 'austerity' policies to allow the company to get its permits without meaningful public participation.” Also, the company has relied on police violence and state support in order to push its project through.
One the other hand, the struggle at Skouries can be seen as representative of the struggle against neoliberalist imperialism and corruption that most people face on a daily basis in contemporary Greek society. A struggle Sagris in Athenian context describes as: “We fight to survive, to maintain our dignity, humanity, and critical thinking from one day to the next; we fight off the businessmen, politicians, armies, and kings of this world as they attempt to steal our future and turn it into coins (2010:363).” Similarly, with regards to Skouries, Soshalkidiki has stated: “Our struggle is a common one [..] We need [..] to build a community of responsiveness, [...] acting in the awareness that all cases have a common denominator – the destructive nature of our definition of development.”
The European Court has taken the Greek State to court in 2009, who were suspected to have provided illegal State aid in their 2003 transaction of the mining assets to Hellas Gold. On 23 February 2011, they were found guilty. Although the court ruled that the mining company should pay 15,34 million Euro to the Greek state, both Hellas Gold and the Greek Government are refusing follow this order. Meanwhile, the residents of Halkidiki continue to struggle and fight against the goldmine and the corrupted State supporting the project. “We are not merely demonstrating for our rights but for life itself, for our own and our children’s future. We stand in solidarity to everyone who fights for life, equality, freedom, and dignity. The criminalization and repression of the struggles of social movements who support basic freedoms is the only reaction left to a panicky system of power. It is our duty to raise our voice and protect those who resist the arbitrariness of power. We believe that united we have the power.”
The Coordinating Committee of Associations of Stageira-Akanthos Against Gold Mining, "A Call for Action,"
Sagris, Tasos, with A.G. Schwartz, and Void Network, eds. 2010 We are an Image from the Future. Edinburgh: AK press.
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