Minister softens stance, cites need for ‘compromise’ in standoff over Skouries mines

A bitter feud between the relevant environment minister and mining multinational El Dorado Gold, which holds the concession to the Skouries gold mining operation in northern Greece, appears to have cooled, with Minister Panos Skourletis on Thursday referring to the need for a compromise with the Canadian company.
An acrimonious round statements and counter-statements came in February when the energy and environment ministry, which Skourletis heads, slapped a suspension on Hellas Gold’s activities at the Skouries complex, citing legal and environmental violations. The concessionaire’s parent company, El Dorado, reacted angrily and threatened to close down all of its activities in Greece, including at another mining operation in Olympiada, near Skouries. Both sites are located in northern Halkidiki prefecture.
In late February, Skourletis accused El Dorado CEO Paul Wright of deliberately “shorting” shares when he announced that a suspension of operations in January. Meetings between company executives and ministry leadership proved fruitless throughout January and February.
In statements to Bloomberg, the Greek minister went as far as saying that the top mining executive “told his friends” of the multinational’s plans to suspend mining at the Skouries site so that they could sell and buy-back at a lower price.
A company spokesperson at the time replied that the statement was “utter nonsense” and defamatory and Wright has threatened legal action against Skourletis.
Nevertheless on Thursday, the minister referred to a “necessary compromise by all sides” in dealing with Skouries, which is the biggest foreign mining investment in Greece, exceeding a projected one billion euros.
Leftist SYRIZA party, when in the opposition, was bitterly opposed to the Skouries investment, although once in government top party cadres softened their stance towards foreign direct investment, especially projects and privatizations directed cited in the third bailout agreement’s terms.

 

source: naftemporiki.gr- english

Read more

Eldorado Reports 2015 Year-End and Fourth Quarter Financial and Operational Results

In the annual review of  Eldorado Gold, ( read the full review here) there is a detailed report on the progress of the company’s investments in Greece , as follows :

 GREECE

In order to complete the construction and development of its Kassandra mining projects in Halkidiki, northern Greece, Hellas Gold, a subsidiary of Eldorado, requires the approval of various routine permits and licenses from a number of government agencies, predominantly under the direction of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (the “Ministry”).

Hellas Gold received approval for its Environmental Impact Study in 2011. Since 2012, the Ministry and other agencies have not entirely fulfilled their permitting and licensing obligations primarily as a result of the lobbying efforts by anti-development interest groups. While Hellas Gold is presently unable to complete its full development plans in Halkidiki as a result of the actions and/or inactions of the Ministry and other agencies regarding the timely issuance of routine permits and licenses, the Company remains committed over the long-term to the projects and its numerous stakeholders within the country.

Olympias

The Olympias plant treated 589,675 tonnes of tailings at a grade of 1.99 grams per tonne during 2015. A total of 16,396 ounces of gold were produced during the year. The Olympias plant ceased treating tailings during the first quarter of 2016.

On March 22, 2016, the Company was granted the required installation permit to begin the next phase (“Phase II”) of Olympias.  During 2015 basic engineering for Phase II was completed, and full implementation began with detailed engineering and procurement of long lead items was well advanced by year end. Underground mine development and refurbishment continued at Olympias during 2015, with underground ore production for Phase II projected to begin before the end of 2016. During 2015, 659 meters of underground access were rehabilitated and 1,901 meters of new development were completed. In addition, approximately 330 meters were advanced on the main Stratoni-Olympias decline, bringing total decline advance project-to-date to 1,950 meters. Capital costs incurred in 2015 were $97 million, consisting of $72 million in construction capital and $25 million in capitalized cost for tailings retreatment.

Skouries

Engineering design work for the processing plant and surface facilities progressed during 2015, with engineering at over 93% complete by year end. During the year a substantial amount of the equipment and various steel structures required to complete construction of the plant and facilities were delivered to the Skouries site, with over 80% of the procurement scope completed by the end of the year. Work continued on construction of the process plant and road access was completed to the base of the tailings dam.

Work on the development of the Skouries underground mine design was advanced during 2015 from scoping level through prefeasibility level. The underground mine design is expected to be completed in 2016. The mine is projected to produce 4.5 million tonnes per year using shaft and ramp access with sub level open stoping along vertical development intervals of 60 meters. The open pit is expected to be used for disposal of mill tailings during the life of the underground operation. The open pit is projected to operate for a period of 8 years to be followed by 22 years of underground mining. During 2015 a total of $112.9 million was spent at Skouries, excluding capitalized exploration and capitalized interest.

On January 11, 2016, the Company announced that construction and development activities at the Skouries project were being suspended due to delays in the issuance of routine permits and licenses by the Greek permitting authorities. Environmental protection works and care and maintenance activities continued to be performed in order to safeguard the environment and the assets of the Company at site at a cost of approximately $1.0 million per month.

Stratoni

Stratoni produced 31% less concentrate than in 2014 mainly due to lower mine output. Mine output was impacted by fewer available underground production faces as well as an extended mine shutdown related to Kassandra mines’ permitting issues. Stratoni reported a loss from mining operations of $12.5 million (2014: gross profit $0.6 million). The loss included a write down of inventory to net realizable value of $3.3 million. In addition to the shortfall in production, the profitability of mining operations was impacted by weak lead and zinc prices. Capital expenditures for the year included upgrades to health, safety and environmental equipment, and upgrades to the water treatment plant.

In 2016, the Company expects to process 220,000 tonnes of ore at grades of 6.2% lead, 10.0% zinc and 163 grams per tonne silver.  Sustaining capital for the year is expected to be $10.0 million.

The Mavres Petres Mine currently has a mine life of approximately three years based on the known proven and probable reserves.  Geological potential exists to expand resources at Mavres Petres and extend mine life, however, in order to delineate additional resources, a mining development and drilling campaign would be required at an estimated cost of $25 million over the next three years, assuming timely issuance of any permits that may be required.

Perama Hill

Project engineering was completed during the year on Perama Hill and the project was placed on care and maintenance pending receipt of the Environmental Impact Assessment approval. In 2015, a total of $1.0 million was spent on the Perama Hill project.

source: eldoradogold.com.,  ellinikoschrysos.gr

Read more

Two years of labour peace at the Cassandra Mines

Despite the current economic circumstances, Hellas Gold ensures stability in wages and provides additional public holidays

After negotiations, the company Hellas Gold SA and two business associations [a) Association of Technicians and Employees of the companies Aktor SA- Hellas Gold “Agia Varvara” and b) Professional Association of Miners in the Underground Cassandra Mines in Halkidiki] agreed upon labour peace for the biennium 2016-2017..

The agreement which was signed on 01.02.2016 provides for the stabilization of the existing wages at the level of 31.12.2015, which is the expiration date of the first corporate collective agreement, as well as the maintenance of automatic salary increases due to maturation. There are also provisions for marriage, special circumstances and seniority benefits. In addition to this the following days were introduced as additional public holidays: January 1, January 6, Clean Monday, Holy Friday, December 4 and December 26, beside the official public holidays. Finally it was agreed that those who are entitled to full retirement due to old age can receive 100% of the authorized compensation in case of termination.

It should be noted that the minimum gross monthly wage for unskilled workers working  above ground amounts to €999, while for those working below ground it amounts to 1,215€.

It is worth adding that although the company had to suspend its work in the Skouries region due to delays in the issuance of “routine” licenses, it actively reinforces the efforts for peace within its labour force with its stance.

The CEO of the company Mr. Michalis Theodorakopoulos said: “The signing of the Corporate Agreement is a particularly important step for the company’s relationships with its employees and is the result of mutual trust and constant cooperation with the business associations in a particularly difficult economic environment where most companies are forced to perform pay cuts”. Mr. Theodorakopoulos also said that there are efforts being made for the prompt and effective resolution of any occurring issues.

 

SOURCE: Hellas Gold

Read more

Eldorado Gold to stop investments in Greece

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

Read more

Eldorado Gold Announces Amended Investment Plans in Greece

VANCOUVER , Jan. 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ – Eldorado Gold Corporation (“Eldorado” or the “Company”) confirms that it will implement significant changes to its investment plans in Greece going forward.
In order to complete the construction and development of its mining projects (the “Kassandra Mines”) in Halkidiki, northern Greece , Hellas Gold , a Greek subsidiary of Eldorado, requires the approval of various routine permits and licenses from a number of government agencies, predominantly under the direction of the Ministry of Energy and Environment (the “Ministry”).
Hellas Gold received approval for its Environmental Impact Study in 2011, yet since 2012, the Ministry and other agencies have not entirely fulfilled their permitting and licensing obligations primarily as a result of the lobbying efforts by anti-development interest groups. In addition, during 2015, the Ministry revoked or suspended certain permits of Hellas Gold ( news releases dated: March 2, 2015 & August 19, 2015 ), which has had a negative impact on the Company’s schedule and budget to develop its assets.
Hellas Gold has been forced to seek remedy in the courts of law in order to address these permitting delays and various court decisions have been made in the Company’s favour, and others remain outstanding. A building permit, that would allow Hellas Gold to complete the construction of the Skouries processing plant, has been delayed for over three years.
Hellas Gold is presently unable to complete its development plans in Halkidiki as a result of the actions and/or inactions of the Ministry and other agencies regarding the timely issuance of routine permits and licenses, which is not only a legal responsibility, but also a contractual obligation of the Greek State.
Skouries Project (Halkidiki)
Construction and development activities at the Skouries Project (with over US$300 million invested to-date), will be suspended. Environmental protection works and care and maintenance activities will continue to be performed in order to safeguard the environment and the assets of the Company at site at a cost of approximately US$1 million per month.
Olympias Project (Halkidiki)
As part of Phase 2 of the Olympias Project , the underground mine is being readied to produce ore at a mining rate of approximately 385,000 tonnes per year. As of the first quarter 2017, ore from the mine will then be treated at the Olympias mill, where refurbishment at a cost of approximately US$55 million is expected to be completed in 2016. However, refurbishment plans are dependent on the Ministry granting the required installation permit. In December 2015 , Hellas Gold submitted all necessary documentation to the Ministry required to obtain this permit, which must be granted within 60 days from the time of submission according to the Greek mining regulations. Should the Ministry fail to issue the installation permit by the end of the first quarter 2016, Hellas Gold will also be forced to suspend all construction and development activities at its Olympias Project . There are currently approximately 500 people working on the Olympias Project .
Stratoni Mine (Halkidiki)
The Stratoni Mine currently has a life of mine of approximately three years based on the known proven and probable reserves. Geological potential exists to expand resources and extend mine life, however, in order to delineate additional resources, a mining development and drilling campaign would be required at an estimated cost of US$25 million over the next three years, assuming timely issuance of any permits that may be required.
Eldorado is currently evaluating the merits of implementing this programme in light of the current investment climate in Greece .
Perama Hill and Sapes Projects (Thrace)
Approvals by the Ministry for the Perama Hill Project’s Environmental Impact Study and for a drilling permit required at the Sapes Project in Thrace, northeastern Greece , have been pending for over two years. The Company has decided to put both projects on care and maintenance with expenditures being kept at the minimum level required to preserve the title and rights to both projects.
Paul N. Wright , President and Chief Executive Officer of Eldorado Gold , commented:
“Eldorado Gold has been, and remains, a committed, responsible and patient partner to the Greek government and to the people of the communities in which we operate. The projects have considerable potential with demonstrated economic and social benefits. At this time, we would instead prefer to be creating additional employment in Greece and advancing the construction and development of our Skouries and Olympias Projects in Halkidiki, as well as our assets in Thrace. However, we have a duty to all our stakeholders and the significant time and process risks created by Greece ‘s Ministry of Energy and Environment have left us with no choice but to reduce activities and personnel.
Since 2012, we have created approximately 2,000 direct jobs in the country and invested in excess of US$700 million towards development of the Skouries and Olympias projects – including tax payments in excess of €120 million to the Greek government. In Halkidiki, we have the support of the vast majority of the local stakeholders. Furthermore, we have had numerous decisions of the Council of State , Greece ‘s Supreme Court on administrative and environmental matters, confirming the integrity of our permits. However, since the beginning of 2015, the Ministry has adopted an openly confrontational attitude towards our business and investments, which has had a detrimental impact on our schedule and budget to develop our mineral assets in Halkidiki.
We have operated in good faith and Hellas Gold has complied with all of its contractual obligations, but given the adverse circumstances mentioned above, it is prudent to reduce our capital allocation to Greece at this time. We wish to recommence the suspended activities and our investment plans in Greece upon the timely issuance of the necessary permits and the establishment of a truly collaborative partnership, within the framework of the contractual obligations between Hellas Gold and the Greek State.”
2016 Guidance Release Date
Eldorado will provide additional capital and operational figures for its Greek assets during disclosure of its 2015 Operating Results and 2016 Guidance, which will be issued on January 25, 2016 .
Press Conference
Paul Wright and senior management from Hellas Gold will host a press conference at the Athens Hilton Hotel on Tuesday, January 12, 2015 at 11:00 AM local time (GMT+2) to discuss Eldorado’s amended investment plans in Greece . Paul’s speech will be available shortly after the press conference at www.eldoradogold.com .
Conference Call
Paul Wright will host a conference call on Tuesday, January 12, 2015 at 8:00 AM ET ( 5:00 AM PT ) to discuss Eldorado’s amended investment plans in Greece. The call will be webcast and can be accessed at www.eldoradogold.com .
Participants may join the call by dialing toll-free: 1 888 231 8191 or 647 427 7450. A replay will be available until January 19, 2015 by dialing toll-free: 1 855 859 2056 or 416 849 0833 (pass code 2437 9146).

SOURCE: Eldorado Gold Corporation

Read more

Hellas Gold is seeking answers

According to information from the inner circle of Hellas Gold, the company does not intend to abandon its investment in Greece and the region of Halkidiki.

The leadership of the Ministry of Environment and Energy and Hellas Gold, a subsidiary of Eldorado Gold, are testing their limits and their relationship is on thin ice, because of the uncertainty in regards to the future of the Canadian company’s investment in Greece, in anticipation for the final decision of the Council of State concerning the withdrawal of the technical studies for the project in Skouries.

The decision of the Council of State: It should be noted that the decision of the Council of State, which on November 2, 2015 validated the action brought by Hellas Gold, the Worker’s Centre of Halkidiki and other unions against the decision of the Minister for the Environment and Energy Panos Skourletis  to revoke the technical studies for the project in Skouries and part of the Olympias project, has yet to be written up and served to interested parties, and this delay is not in favour of the development potential of the investment project of Hellas Gold.

Next week is expected to be crucial for the outcome of the case, as the CEO of Eldorado Gold, Paul Wright is going to visit Athens and, according to our sources, will seek to get clear answers about the government’s intention towards an investment of 1.5 billion Euros by Eldorado Gold in Greece, stating once again to the Greek side with the familiar style of all investors that financial agreements and investments follow specific timelines and cost conditions in order for them to be sustainable and effective.

However, according to the inner cycle of Hellas Gold, the company does not intend to abandon its investment in Greece and the region of Halkidiki. In fact, they stress that “they have suffered in 2015, but their goal is to succeed, because they have already invested 650 million Euros in this country”.

Protests: Meanwhile, yesterday, the employees of Hellas Gold in Halkidiki protested because the company Aktor fired 28 workers who worked in the Gallery in Skouries, due to lack of work. Workers point out that they are anxious about their future and troubled by the government’s delays in regards to the investment for gold in Halkidiki.

[SOURCE: NAFTEMPORIKI, 9/01/2016, by Letta Kalamara]

 

 

Read more

Council of State reportedly overrules Greek Energy Minister’s stoppage of Mining in Northern Greece

The Council of State (CoS), Greece ’s highest administrative court, on Monday abrogated a ministerial decision by former productive reconstruction, environment and energy minister Panos Skourletis to revoke the operating license of the Hellas Gold mining company in Halkidiki prefecture of northern Greece, according to sources.

However, responding later to the report, the president of the CoS said the final decision has not been issued yet. “On the case of Hellas Gold … no decisions have been issued yet. The conference on these cases has not been completed. Any other report does not reflect reality,” Nikolaos Sakellariou said in a statement.

Revocation of the gold mining license was based on the fact that the company did not conduct tests on deposits from the Olympiada and Skouries sites on its premises, but rather at a facility in Finland. The CoS ruled that this was not justification enough for revoking the license. The publication of the ruling is pending. The ministerial decision was announced in September.

Hellas Gold is a subsidiary of Canadian multinational Eldorado Gold.
(Source: ANA-MPA)

By Anastassios Adamopoulos – Nov 3, 2015, greekreporter.com

Read more

Greek State Council suspends Skourletis’ decision to close Skouries Mine

The Council of State temporarily suspended the decision of Greek former Productive Reconstruction Minister Panos Skourletis (August 19, 2015), which recalled the decision that approved the engineering design of the mining facilities in Skouries, as submitted by Hellas Gold, claiming that the design violated the technical studies’ terms.

In particular, the Council of State Suspensions Department ordered the suspension Skourletis decision, until the issuing of a final decision regarding the main action which was discussed today in the Council of State plenary.

The council member weighed the harm that the mine workers claim to have experienced and the public interest invoked by the Greek government and eventually decided on the decision’s suspension.

By Ioanna Zikakou – Oct 2, 2015-greekreporter.com

Read more

Science comes before politics

It is high time for scientific voices to claim the space and attention that they deserve. To say the truth loud and clear. To explain the findings of the mineral deposit research, the importance of the productive exploitation of mineral wealth, the operational presence of the mines, the rational management and control of the environmental impact and the added developmental value and sustainability that emerges for Greece.

For citizens to find out what is really going on. To convey to the Greek people the scientific truth through objective information and documented proposals. To regain the lost trust of the citizens and become once again a key point of reference for reliable and authentic information. And maybe these voices will manage at some point to raise awareness and attract the attention of the “hard of hearing” politicians and in general of those in power.

The strategic planning of the utilization of mineral resources and mineral policy can only be dealt with by scientists. Because at the same time that politicians talk about destruction and lives at risk science offers knowledge, technology and quality of life. Because when politicians create unemployment, science creates job opportunities. Because when politicians lead us to social impasses science offers perspective. Because when politicians talk about problems scientists find solutions. After all science leads, guides and must always and largely determine the content of the politics.

So one chooses to revisit on a regular basis the issue of the productive exploitation of the mineral wealth as a credible and viable lifeline for the developmental prospects of the country. Aiming primarily for the citizens to have more comprehensive information and insight into the real data, as well as hoping that the politicians will finally understand what is going on.

It is a fact that Greece has significant growth potential and productive exploitation opportunities with the mineral raw materials available. A typical example are the areas of geological interest in Macedonia and Thrace, where apart from the financial dimension, their strategic national position is also readily understandable. The wealth potential is a given and their industrial exploitation is the only developmental orientation.

Citizens only have to approach the true data with a calm and clear gaze and see the true potential with an open mind. To turn their backs and close their ears to those who methodically cultivate the fear of mines and mineral deposits, and introduce a series of unacceptable conceptual and social divisions. Those who prefer unemployment to work potentials.

Because of course productive mines, collective progress and the common good are strongly against any anti-mining propaganda and effort for developmental depreciation.

SOURCE:  http://greenminerals.blogspot.com- 27 /09/2015, by Dr. of Geology Nikolaos Arvanitidis

 

Read more

“Hands off the mines”

“Fight for work ‘and’ Fight for Growth” were some of the banners of the miners in this year’s mobilization of workers in Thessaloniki under the 80th TIF.

The thousands of miners participated in the rally of GSEE and the EKTH and asked for support in their struggle.

The President of EKTH said: “Our society cannot withstand not even one dismissal” and therefore issued a call for an immediate solution to the issue of the Chalkidiki Mines’ employees.

According to the Cassandra Mines  Steering Committee  4,000 miners were involved, with the slogan “Hands off the Mines”.

According to ANA-MPA, the workers in the mines of Chalkidiki held a few minutes sit-in protest in front of the White Tower.

Source: http://www.newsbeast.gr

Read more