Canadian mining company Eldorado Gold says it is suspending work at a site in northern Greece and laying off 600 workers following protests by local residents and a spat with the country’s left wing government.

The Vancouver, Canada-based company said Tuesday that it was suspending operations at a gold mine at Skouries, one of four major Greek sites where the company is involved.

Eldorado Gold CEO Paul Wright said 500 more jobs were also likely to be cut later in the year.

Wright accused the government of using the mining project as a “political toy” but insisted the company had no plans to pull out of Greece.

Elected a year ago, the leftwing government has expressed support for resident protest groups near Skouries who oppose the project on environmental grounds.

Wright said the company might suspend works in the Olympias site in Chalkidiki if the license is not approved within three months. Eldorado Gold has also frozen the projects in Perama Hill and Sapes in Thrace. They are also considering freezing the expansion of the mine at Stratoni.

The company CEO gave a press conference where he said that, “Since 2012 we created 2,000 direct and 3,000 indirect jobs and invested more than 700 million euros for development projects in Skouries and Olympias. We have paid over 700 million euros in taxes for Skouries and Olympias.”

“We invest in many countries but in Greece, our investment became politicized, it turned into a political game,” Wright said. “Greek finance ministers invite foreign investors to come to Greece. We are an example for foreign investors. We need to be partners with the government and have good cooperation to achieve the investment for our own benefit and for the economy.” He also added that the company has asked to meet with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras but he has not yet responded.

Wright gave detailed figures of what the project in Chalkidiki would mean to the Greek economy:

1 billion euros in social security contributions
1.5 billion euros in salaries
100 million euros in associations and local organizations
150 million euros in environmental improvements
75 million in infrastructure projects in the region
2.5 billion euros in payments to local suppliers of goods and services

This is the first and perhaps the largest private investment of foreign capital in our country, totaling 1.2 billion euros, say financial analysts.

“We operate in good faith and Hellas Gold has complied with all contractual obligations, however, due to unfavorable conditions it is prudent to reduce capital investment in Greece at the time,” said a company statement addressed to the Athens Stock Exchange.

The Canadian company attributes the decision to stop the investment to the policies of the Ministry of Environment and Energy. Wright described the attitude of the Greek government as “openly confrontational” and argues that its subsidiary Hellas Gold is “unable at this stage to complete its investment plans in Chalkidiki because of acts and omissions of the ministry and other public services, relating to the timely issuance of routine licenses and permits which is a legal and contractual obligation of the Greek government.”

Wright clarified that the investment has great prospects and Eldorado Gold is willing to continue the investment. However, he said, the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy creates significant risks and obstacles that leave no other choice but to reduce activities and staff.

“We hope to resume our activities and investment plans in Greece if we get the necessary permits on time and there is a real working relationship in the context of contractual obligations between Hellas Gold and the Greek government,” he noted. “We would like to create more jobs but the policy of the environment ministry made that impossible.”

In Skouries 600 workers will lose their jobs. This will be done gradually, as the company will maintain the workers who are essential for the basic functions for a period of 3-4 months, which has set a timeframe for the company to get license approval from the Ministry of Environment and Energy.

In Olympias 500 workers are at risk of losing their jobs. In this case the project continues and is awaiting approvals that will determine whether or not the investment will continue.

Wright will meet with New Democracy president Kyriakos Mitsotakis, PASOK leader Fofi Gennimata, Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis, and Centrists Union president Vassilis Leventis to discuss the situation.

The government does not succumb to blackmail, says Environment Min Skourletis
The government does not succumb to blackmail, Environment and Energy Minister Panos Skourletis on Tuesday said in statements to Praktorio 104.9 FM following “Eldorado Gold” announcement that it partly suspends its construction works at Skouries.

Skourletis expressed his disappointment over the fact that CEO of the Canadian company, Paul Wright, decided to cancel their scheduled meeting on Tuesday.

Skourletis sternly criticized those who accuse the government that 2,000 people will lose their jobs after the retirement of Eldorado from Northern Halkidiki and cleared out that the decision will affect around 830 workers.

source: Greekreporter.com, Philip Chrysopoulos – Jan 12, 2016