Mining Greece: Kassandra’s mines

MINING GREECE – KASSANDRA'S MINES – 001THE HISTORY OF KASSANDRA MINES

The northeastern side of Halkidiki has a long history which is mostly marked by the involvement of the inhabitants in the mining activity. More than 300 wells and approximately 200,000 square meters of ancient metallurgical waste are preserved in the area, commonly known as “skouria” (rust) from the overheating of minerals in furnaces that prove this fact.

From Antiquity to Byzantium

The earliest mining activity, according to historical sources and results of analyses that were carried out in the above rusts, dates back to the earliest period of classical antiquity, in the 6th century B.C.

However, the mines flourished at the time of Philip II when they constituted the main funding source for the Macedonian Kingdom and the expeditions of Alexander the Great.  The ability to mint not only silver but also gold coins gave impetus to the expansion and domination of the Macedonian Kingdom over the other cities-states of that time.

The mining activity continued until the Roman period while in Byzantine times the exploitation of mines restarts, and the region Sidirokafsia, the northern area of Isvoro (Stratoniki at present day) emerges as a mining center. The name Sidirokafsia is found for the first time in the 9th century.

Ottoman period and privileges thanks to mining 

In the early 15th century, the mines of northeastern Halkidiki entered a new period of prosperity and became an important mining center with pioneering organization and fortification. Sidirokafsia was the population and administrative center of Halkidiki as there were 500-600 furnaces in the area for the processing of zinc and lead.

In the 16th and 17th century the area experiences again altering periods of boom and decline. In 1705, the villages in the area, the so called Mantemochoria (a name that has prevailed up to the present day), acquire the right of self-government and, by the Sultan’s firman, the right to exploit the silver mines. For this purpose a Mining Cooperative was established and representatives of the 12 large villages participated in its general administration. Their only obligation towards the Big Gate was the delivery of a tax of 550 pounds of silver as an exchange for the special privileges they enjoyed by the Sultan.

It is also said that, when sometime the production reduced, they bought from the pirates silver coins giving in exchange clothing or animals, and melted them in order to give the silver to the Ottomans so as not to lose the privileges they had. These privileges included the absence of the Ottomans from the area except Madem Aga, one officer and 20 soldiers who only implemented the decisions of four rulers (archontes) elected each year by the representatives of 12 villages.

Mantemochoria participated as a legal entity but suffered severe damages by the Ottomans. The greatest loss was that of the privilege of self-government, the “Community of Mademi” ceased to exist and the mining rights were granted by the Ottoman Empire to the French-Ottoman S.A. (a company based in Paris) in 1893. That same year the name “Cassandra Mines” appeared for the first time which has prevailed and is used until today.

An international community of 6.000 workers operated the region’s approximately 600 furnaces. The company’s furnaces had excavated and processed 72.000 tons of ore until 1900. The surface exploitation of pyrite began in Madem Lakko, in 1901.

After 1920

The Greek Limited Company of Chemical Products & Fertilizers (GCCP & Fertilizers LTD) succeeded the French-Ottoman company. The company had foreseen at that time the necessity of a wide use of fertilizers for the country’s agricultural development and thus it was led to the purchase of mines in various places of the country in order to guarantee sulfur which was the raw material for the production of fertilizers. In Stratoni the company exploited the mixed sulphide ores of the region as well as the pyrite ores and it was the cargo area of them.

The era of Bodosakis

After the World War II the majority of the stocks of GCCP & Fertilizers LTD were acquired by Bodosakis Athanasiadis who boosted the mining industry.

Stratoni became the center of the company’s mining activities. Τhe testimonies of the residents that their village was “shinning” since it was the only one that had electricity to meet the needs mainly of the mining activity prove the boom of the region at that time. In 1970, GCCP & Fertilizers LTD built an enrichment plant at the beach of Stratoni and began producing and processing mixed sulphide ore.

The mining activity in Olympiada

The production of mixed suphide ore in the mine of Olympiada began in 1972.  In 1976 a new enrichment plant was built in Olympiada and therefore the products of the mining activity were transferred to the cargo area of Stratoni.

Gold mining

In the late 1980s the Greek State decided to set up a goldmining site through the state funded METBA (Metallurgy Aegean Industry) in the region of Olympiada. This decision was never implemented due to various circumstances. The era of GCCP & Fertilizers LTD ends in 1992, when it goes into special liquidation while it remains in operation by the National Bank of Greece.

The period of TVX HELLAS

In December 1995, the exploitation rights of Kassandra Mines and all infrastructures are sold to the TVX Hellas, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining company TVX Gold. The main aim of the company was the establishment of a gold mining site in Olympiada and it had also a license for the extraction of mixed sulphide ores in “Mavres Petres”.

2003: The investment plan was cancelled

The investment plan in Olympiada was cancelled. Another negative decision of the Council of State led to the cessation of the activity in the mine Mavres Petres. The workers were laid off. The company and the whole area fell into financial difficulties while 480 workers lost their job. The villages of the region suffer economic and population decline. The government in order to avoid social explosions prepared a special social program to support former workers in Kassandra Mines.

Kassandra Mines today

In January 2004 the mining rights and all the infrastructures of Kassandra Mines were transferred to Hellas Gold S.A. by a special law validated by the parliament, while in October 2005 the mine of Mavres Petres operated again.

In January 2006, a single business plan on the parallel development and exploitation of the ores of Olympiada and Skouries was submitted which envisaged the establishment of a gold mining site in the area of Madem Lakko.

In February 2012 the Hellenic Gold S.A. was acquired by Eldorado Gold Corporation.

Until the initiation of the investment plan, the manpower of Hellas God gave new life to the region. They were always there to support their compatriots in good moments (either in everyday life by supporting the local market, or with cultural events in feasts e.g. Paramythohora, Carnival etc.) but also in difficult moments (such as the flood on October 10, 2010 in Stratoni or the fire on Mount Athos on August 9, 2012 etc.).  Within one year the employees were increased from 400 to 800 and today the entire workforce is 1,900 people.

The decisions of the Council of State

A milestone in the history of Kassandra Mines and for all residents of the area was the day on April 17, 2013 when the Council of State indicated the legitimacy of economic-social and environmental aspects of mining investment.

Similar appeals to the Council of State met the same fate and the last rejection decision was made on February 18, 2015.

MODERN PROJECTS IN THE KASSANDRA MINES

Project of Olympiada

Deposit: Mixed sulfide ore, 4.6% lead (Pb), 6.01% zinc (Zn), 9 gr/tn gold (Au) and 138 gr/tn silver (Ag)

Production: 11.5 million tons of ore will be mined in total

Duration: 25 years

Development: Underground

Production phases:

  • Until 2015: Recovery of old deposits, production of 50,000 ounces/year
  • 2016-2018: Underground production with parallel development of the mine and restoration of old areas – production of 84,000 ounces/year
  • From 2019 onwards: production of 190,000 ounces/year

Project of Skouries

1st quarter of 2014: Construction works in full progress

Enrichment Plant – Underground Development – Surface Facilities

Deposit: The deposit of Skouries is located in the Municipality of Aristotle, at an equal distance from the villages of Megali Panagia, Paleochori and Neochori. It is a world-class prophyritic deposit which contains 0.54% copper and 0.83 gr/tn gold. It has a cylindrical form with a diameter of 200m and expands from the surface straight (vertically) downwards to a depth of 800m.

Duration: 30 years.

Production: 146.2 million tons of ore will be mined in total

In the first 7 years, from the opencast mining  (1/3 of the deposit) 140,000 ounces of gold, 30,000 tons of copper/year. In the next 21 years: From the underground mining (2/3 of the deposit) 100,000 ounces of gold, 22,000 tons of copper/year

The investment of Hellas Gold in Skouries

Based on the principle of the minimal area occupation, the combination of opencast and underground mining has been selected. The first phase  – opencast mining, has a duration of 7 years (a surface pit of a maximum diameter of 700m, of a 220m depth and of a maximum occupied area of 390,000 square meters). The second phase – underground mining, during which the greatest part of the deposit will be recovered (2/3 of the deposit), will last 21 years.

Today – In Skouries are constructed the works of access and development of the undergound mine, the plant for the ore treatment, as well as all the auxiliary surface facilities.

In the Enrichment Plant has been completed the installation of part of the equipment, with the installation of the first semi-autogenous Sag Mill, one of the most modern treatment machinery in Europe (diameter of 10 meters, length of 4.5 meters and weight of 500 tons, capacity of treatment of 1,000 tons of material per hour).

Project of Stratoni

The facilities of Hellas Gold dominate the area from the coast of Stratoni to Madem Lakkos. They surround the mine of Mavres Petres, the enrichment plant of Stratoni, the port facilities and two water treatment plants for the proper management of water of the mine (one is located in the facilities of the enrichment plant in Stratoni and the second one in the facilities of the mine of Mavres Petres)

Deposit: Mixed Sulfide Ore, 8.3% zinc, 6.0% lead, 170 grams/ton silver

Production: Total reserves of 1 million tons of ore. Upgrade of the mine: 50 million euros in the period 2006-2012

The investment of Hellas Gold in Stratoni

In 2020, which is the year that the new enrichment plant in Madem Lakkos will begin to operate, the existing plant in Stratoni will be shut down, will be restored and given back to the local community. At the same time, all the coastal area will be released.

The mining center of Hellas Gold

In the area of Madem Lakkos will be created the mining center of Hellas Gold, which will include the new enrichment plant and the metallurgical plant of copper, gold and silver which will begin operating in 2020.

After the full development of the investment plan, the ores from Olympiada and the Mine of Mavres Petres will be transported for treatment to the enrichment plant in Madem Lakkos.

In the metallurgical plant of copper, gold and silver will take place the parallel treatment, of the three ores from Skouries, Olympiada and Stratoni.

After 2020, the ore from Olympiada will be transported for treatment to the new enrichment plant in Madem Lakkos subterraneously, through the new 9 km-long tunnel, which will connect the area of Madem Lakkos with the mine of Olympiada, the construction of which is in full progress. In this way, the national and provincial road network will be fully relieved.

[SOURCE: Mining News]