Protesting miners from the Kassandra mines in Halkidiki concluded a march through central Athens on Thursday. After the march, a mine workers’ delegation had a meeting with the management of Eldorado Gold, the Canadian mining company behind the Halkidiki mines’ investment through its Greek subsidiary Hellas Gold.
According to one of the trade unionists representing the miners, Eldorado Gold announced that it was reversing its decision to suspend its investments in Greece. “This time we won,” the trade unionist said, noting that Eldorado Gold CEO George Burns had announced the start of dialogue with the Greek government. In spite of this, he added, the workers will remain on alert to ensure that the project continues.
Police had earlier closed Vassilisis Sofias Avenue to traffic in both directions on Thursday, between the Hilton hotel and Syntagma Square, as protesting miners marched through Athens to reach the government’s headquarters at the Maximos Mansion.
Earlier they had closed Messogion Avenue due to a protest rally by workers at the Kassandra and Skouries mines in Halkidiki outside the environment ministry that started at 7:00 on Thursday morning. The miners, who had declared a 48-hour strike, were demanding that the government protect their jobs by speeding up the issue of pending licences requested by Hellas Gold.
“The three licences issued for the Olympias mine are not enough for the project to go ahead; it is a single project,” the head of their union Christos Zafeiroudas told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA).
A meeting was arranged between a miners’ delegation and the ministry Secretary General for Energy and Mineral Raw Materials Michalis Verroiopoulos. In statements afterward, Zafeiroudas expressed confidence that a solution will be found very soon and said that both sides “appear to be making a great effort to resolve our issue.”
“There is an honest and sincere dialogue with the company. Unfortunately, however, time is needed to see results in practice. We must continue our struggle. Nothing is over yet,” he added, noting that the goal was still a final resolution by the time an arbitration process on the issue has been completed.
Ministry sources reported a good atmosphere at the meeting, while the workers also plan to meet with the company’s management.
In the meantime, an arbitration process expected to last three months began on Thursday between the Greek state and Hellas Gold, regarding the licence for a facility at the mine in Skouries, Halkidiki.