SAMPLE LETTER:Published by MAC on 2002-04-27
Dear Prime Minister,
RE : TVX Hellas mining activities under Stratoniki
We wish to express our concern about the mining activity of TVX Hellas S.A. under the village of Stratoniki, Halkidiki. This company is undermining the safety and security of the village and its inhabitants, causing damage to houses and drying up the areas water resources. Tension in the village is mounting and the first violent incidents between the protesting residents and the police force that is protecting TVX have already taken place.
For the past two years, TVX has been mining the Mavres Petres mine, most of which is located directly underneath Stratoniki, despite the unanimous opposition of its inhabitants and the municipal and prefecture councils. Activity at the same mine by the previous mine operator had caused extensive land subsidence and the destruction of a number of homes and a church. On February 15, the Deputy Minister of Development, Alexandros Kalaphatis, granted TVX an official permit allowing for the continuation of mining operations under the village.
Current blasting has caused severe cracks in the walls of houses and the community church. Furthermore, the village is located in an active seismic zone and the villagers fear that the existence of the underground adits would magnify the effects of an earthquake. Though it is true that a group of experts from the National Technical University of Athens which evaluated the companys technical study said that mining does not entail any risks for the village, their report clearly states that this evaluation was based solely on the information provided by TVX.
Villagers claim that the underground environment of Stratoniki, has not been sufficiently studied and that the danger to their lives and homes is real. This fact is acknowledged even in one of the studies carried out for TVX in 1995, which states: there is considerable danger that any further mining activity in this area could lead to large scale destruction of property and risk human lives. The same study stresses that the extent and gravity of the problems caused by previous mining in the area is unknown.
Last week a surface collapse occurred over the newly mined area, which TVX Hellas refuses to acknowledge while continuing its operations 24 hours a day.
For more than a month the villagers have been protesting daily against the operation of the mine. A strong police force was sent into the village to protect TVX from the residents, whose protest however has always been peaceful. On Tuesday, May 16, four protestors were arrested for no obvious reason, and were sentenced to 8 months imprisonment each for resisting arrest. This event has led to anger expressed by the residents, resulting in a violent reaction by the police. As a result, one policeman and 4 residents of Stratoniki, including an 80-year old man and a 75-year old woman, were injured.
Also, legal charges are brought against the citizens of Stratoniki, a strategy clearly designed to end their protests. So far, more than 35 citizens have been charged with obstructing traffic in more than 60 individual cases and the number keeps increasing. The first trial dates have been set for May 23 and June 7.
Given the obvious dangers to the citizens of Stratoniki, we ask that TVX immediately stop mining under the village and not be allowed to continue any such mining operations without their formal consent. We also ask that the citizens struggle for the protection of their village not be penalized and all charges against them be dropped.
Thank you for your attention.