MAC: Mines and Communities

Greeks fighting Eldorado allege human rights abuses by police

Published by MAC on 2013-03-25
Source: Statement, Enet English, Canadian Press

Amnesty International last week called on the Greek authorities to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into allegations of human rights violations by police, meted out to villagers objecting to Eldorado Gold.

Demonstration against Eldorado Gold’s mining projects in Halkidiki, 25 March 2013
Demonstration against Eldorado Gold’s mining projects in Halkidiki,
March 25, 2013. Source: Helllenic Mining Watch

Over recent weeks, residents of Ierrisos have mounted vigorous protests against the Canadian company's mining plans. See: Greece: Local people's voice will not be silenced at Halkidiki

The Committees Against Gold Mining at Halkidki has now put out the first English issue of its magazine, soshalkidiki.

This contains "information about mining activities in Halkidiki, the impacts on the environment, health and local economy and the people's struggle against the destructive mining activities. The text is enriched with references, scientific papers, videos and articles".

Read it here:αγγλική-έκδοση/

You can download the pdf here

Greece: Need for investigation of police conduct towards residents of town objecting gold mining operations

Amnesty International Public Statement

AI index: EUR 25/004/2013

22 March 2013

Greece: Need for investigation of police conduct towards residents of town objecting gold mining operations

Amnesty International calls on the Greek authorities to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into allegations of human rights violations by police in the village of Ierissos in Chalkidiki (Northern Greece) during the past month.

Among the allegations are that chemical irritants were used by police against protesters in Ierissos in an unnecessary or disproportionate fashion causing injury, that DNA samples were collected from residents in an inappropriate manner, and persons questioned by the police, apparently on suspicion of possible involvement in an arson attack on the work site of the mining company Hellas Gold, were denied access to a lawyer before or during questioning.

In the past year, many of the residents of Ierissos and other nearby towns have protested against a gold mining operation in the area of Skouries on mount Kakavos and its environmental impact. On 17 February 2013, an arson attack took place on the work site of the gold mining company.

In the following weeks, more than a hundred residents of Ierissos and the nearby village of Megali Panagia were interviewed by the police about the arson case.

In one of the cases, on 20 February 2013, two of the residents were transferred without their consent to the Polygyros police headquarters and held there for several hours without charge while the police allegedly said to relatives and their lawyers that they did not have information about their whereabouts.

The residents interviewed by the police reportedly were not allowed to have their lawyers present despite requesting so and remained at the police stations for several hours. Furthermore, their lawyers reported that many of them were intimidated into giving a DNA sample including by being told that they would face charges for disobedience if they refused to give their DNA, that they would be held longer, and/or other threats.

Those residents whose DNA was obtained subsequently were reportedly given a paper to sign stating that they had given their consent. Ten residents who refused to give their DNA were allegedly coerced to do so. Some of the residents also alleged that they were ill-treated during their interviews.

In addition, among those requested to be interviewed by the police, were two high school female students who were minors. The minors were reportedly not allowed to have a lawyer and/or their parents present during their interview by the police.

Amnesty International wishes to express its serious concerns about these allegations, including reports regarding the manner in which the DNA samples were obtained. The Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to the Automatic Processing of Personal Data, to which Greece is a State Party, states amongst others that "personal data undergoing automatic processing shall be obtained and processed fairly and lawfully".

Moreover, Amnesty International is concerned about the fact that these persons were not granted access to their lawyers despite the fact that actions such as the collection of DNA samples appear to indicate that they were being treated as suspects in an ongoing criminal investigation.

Furthermore, on 7 March 2013, around 10 am dozens of riot police officers along with public prosecutors tried to enter the village of Ierissos in order to search some of the residents' houses for the purpose of the criminal investigation conducted into the arson attack.

The residents objected to the riot police entering the village and many of them gathered at the entrance to the village where they placed burning tyres.

In response the police used chemical irritants to disperse them. In addition, according to testimonies of teachers and students, chemical irritants were thrown also inside the yard of the high school that was nearby resulting to one student being injured on the head from a piece of a tear gas grenade and requiring hospital treatment while other students suffered breathing problems.

In their response, police said that it had made a moderate use of chemicals irritants to disperse the residents, that it did not throw chemicals at the school and the house and that two officers were injured when some of the residents threw stones at them.

Amnesty International calls on the Greek authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure law enforcement officials do not use unnecessary or excessive force, including in relation to demonstrations and other types of assemblies.

They should carefully consider the type of equipment used and use it only when lawful, necessary and proportional. Policing and security equipment - such as rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades, often described as "less-lethal" weapons - can result in serious injury and even death. Chemical irritants, such as tear gas, should not be used where people are confined in an area and not in a way that can cause lasting harm (such as at too close range, or directly aimed at people's faces).


In August 2012, police used tear gas and reportedly fired rubber bullets and other impact rounds at peaceful protestors opposing the gold mining operations. On 21 October 2012, riot police reportedly chased and beat protesters of all ages gathered peacefully outside the area where gold mining operations were planned. According to testimonies received, police threw chemical irritants inside protesters' cars as they tried to flee. A 63-year old woman told Amnesty International that a riot police officer dragged her out of her car, made her kneel and trampled on her left ankle with his boot causing a nerve injury in her leg.

For Amnesty International's concerns see:

Don't beat protesters EU countries warned, 25 October 2012,

Europe: Policing of Demonstrations in the European Union, 25 October 2012,
EUR 01/022/2012,


Eldorado needs a social license to mine Greek gold

John Psaropoulos

Enet English

15 March 2013

History shows that the Canadian miner faces determined and sustained opposition on environmental grounds, but it could have its treasure if it pledged a measure of it to the local population

Last Saturday, a crowd of approximately 15,000 people from Thessaloniki and the Halkidiki peninsula flooded the commercial high street of Greece's northern port city. They paraded placards with the faces of politicians who had helped sell four mining concessions to a series of Canadian and Australian companies over the past decade, and chanted, "We want forests, earth and water, not a tomb made of gold." On Monday the protests spread to Athens and Komotini, and more anti-mining events are planned.

Why, at a time of desperately high unemployment (nominally 27 percent nationwide, but forecast by the Labour Institute to rise to 31 percent by the end of the year) is a foreign investor having such trouble establishing himself?

The tomb of gold the protesters refer to is a series of environmental calamities they fear will befall the area if Canada's Eldorado Gold Corporation, the current holder of the concessions, proceeds with plans to extract and refine gold ore. Chief among those concerns is the poisoning of the water table from naturally occurring arsenic in some of the ore and from cyanide used in the leeching process. Many are concerned about the demise of air quality from dust produced by the pulverisation of millions of tonnes of the ore. Greece's Geological Research Institute found low-content gold deposits across northern Greece in the 1980s, and many locals suspect that Eldorado will one day extend its operations uncontrollably, turfing up hundreds of thousands of hectares.

It is not the current lead, zinc, copper and silver mining operations the locals object to - only the extraction of gold. For Eldorado and for Greece, the stakes are huge. Eldorado estimates that its concessions at Stratoni, Skouries and Olympias in Halkidiki and Perama in Alexandroupolis contain provable reserves of some 12 million ounces worth more than $20 billion on today's market. If the mines were to operate as planned, they would account for a fifth of Eldorado's worldwide gold production by 2016. They would make Greece Europe's leading gold producer and bring in export revenues of a billion dollars a year, helping to reverse what many economists now believe was Greece's worst problem before the crisis - its massive trade deficit.

Eldorado says it has invested $100 million over the past year and would invest ten times that amount over the lifespan of the mines. But it also knows that Greece ranks poorly as an investment environment and that the people of Halkidiki have already seen off a number of suitors.

If the history of the goldmines is full of unfulfilled potential, it is also replete with lessons for a mature investor. Another Canadian mining company, TVX Gold, went bankrupt over the mines. It alienated locals with layoffs in 1995 and did little to win them back. A series of legal challenges that local authorities lodged with the Council of State delayed development for so long, that by 2003 TVX was forced to write off its Greek subsidiary and merge with another Canadian miner.

Eldorado has learned from TVX's layoffs, and rather than paring down operations it has doubled the size of the payroll to 800 in a year. That increases the number of families invested in the mines' future and gives the impression that it is about to make something happen. But Eldorado cannot ultimately buy everyone off with jobs. It will have to address broader environmental concerns. Greece generates a quarter if its income from tourism, transport and trade. By contrast, little more than three percent comes from primary industry, and most of that comes from farming, which is environmentally sensitive. It is hardly surprising that most people in Halkidike, a peninsula of white sandy beaches, forests and wildlife, are already employed in hotels, restaurants, farming and fishing.

Frontier Pacific, the Canadian firm from which Eldorado bought its Perama concession, understood that beyond its legal license from Athens, it had to win what its CEO, Peter Tegart, called "social licensing" from the local population. Eldorado needs to do the same. Politicians in Athens will change a dozen times during the lifetime of the mines; the locals are there to stay; and it is they who do not currently feel like stakeholders.

Unfortunately for Eldorado, central government has lost so much authority during the crisis, that winning licenses in Athens probably sets its chances back in the local constituency. Any ministers who claim to be in a position to deliver the population are simply overstating the case. And while some local opposition may be politically driven, much is based on genuine conviction. Winning Halkidiki, therefore, has to be seen as a wholly separate exercise from the legal and bureaucratic one, and one that Eldorado must undertake alone.

This will take a lot more than the company's current tactics of press conferences in Athens or flyers inserted in Sunday papers suggesting that environmentally aware protesters do not represent "the true Halkidiki". A well-advertised town hall meeting in Thessaloniki, where Vancouver-based CEO Paul Wright and the company's top brass in Greece answered concerns, would be much more in the right vein.

Forthrightness is key. For instance, Greenwich Resources, a UK company trying to develop a small gold mining concession at Sappes, near Alexandroupoli, has decided that no amount of persuasion will do away with cyanide concerns. It would forego the cyanide leeching process altogether and ship crushed ore for processing elsewhere. This sacrifices about a tenth of the gold content, but it kills a potentially deadly argument.

Eldorado insists that its cyanide process is fully contained (as opposed to open-air) and would produce storable cyanide bricks, not vats of poison. Local activists are still not convinced. If Greenwich Resources is prepared to sacrifice 10 percent over cyanide, Eldorado could do the same in a slightly different way. It could volunteer to deposit 10 percent of profits in a foundation dedicated to environmental restitution, improving schools and hospitals, scholarships to Canadian universities and even modest pensions for those whose health is affected by mining activity.

Ultimately Eldorado has to be prepared for failure. The people of Halkidike may simply decide that they are not prepared to accept the risks at any price. That decision would have to be respected. Governments in Athens will not teargas them into submission, and academics and activists will seize every possible opportunity to file injunctions. Eldorado can argue that it is a canary in the investment goldmine that is Greece, and that its demise will deter others; but it can only do so convincingly if it has made honest and direct efforts to engage the people it most affects.

Greeks are aware that resource-based industries are finite. Themistocles stressed the point in the early 5th century BC, when he convinced Athenians to use newly discovered deposits of silver to produce a mighty fleet rather than a handout. His leadership saved Greece from a second Persian invasion. Eldorado needs to convince the Greeks that it is Themistocles, not Xerxes.


Thousands of Greeks protest planned gold mine

By Canadian Press 

9 March 2013

THESSALONIKI, Greece - More than 10,000 people have taken to the streets of Greece's second largest city to protest a planned gold mine they see as an environmental risk.

Police blocked the crowd's march to the Canadian Consulate in Thessaloniki, but Saturday's protest took place and ended peacefully. Eldorado Gold Corp., based in Vancouver, Canada, has been granted the rights to the gold mine in Halkidiki peninsula, east of Thessaloniki.

The company has established a camp employing 1,200 people and plans to begin digging soon.

The issue has bitterly divided Halkidiki residents, with some claiming the mine will harm tourism and release toxic substances, and others denying that and saying new jobs are crucial during Greece's severe economic crisis.

Last week, about 3,000 residents demonstrated in favour of the mine.

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