Last Thursday, just a few days before the government reshuffle, the Minister of Environment Panos Skourletis, , decided to block again the investment of “Hellas Gold” in Chalkidikiin what was considered by many his “swan song”.

Thus he appeared to be consistent with his ideological commitments to the “movement” against the investment and the world of SYRIZA, which had identified with it. And although according to the “Hellenic Mining Watch,” which leads the struggle against gold mining, the issue is not political but “a matter of public health and public interest”, within the classes of its members there is a prevailing concern in regards to the motion of Mr. Skourletis which could be construed as a distractionin view of the reshuffle or the elections.

The decision of Panos Skourletis,however, does not necessarily represent the overall attitude of the government on the matter. Besides SYRIZA, which in the past held a rigid stance as an opposition party, has been dancing the “tango” ever since the takeover, taking one step forward and two backwards, trying to balance between the expectations of its voters (especially during election periods and politically charged times), the occasional decisions of the CoE (the company has filed a total of 16 times and has been vindicated in all cases) and the need of the government to appear to its international audience as friendly to foreign investments . In any case, apparently the “hot potato” has been passed on to the hands of the successor of Mr. Skourletis.

Low-key attitude

The company and its employees are keeping a low-key attitude, until there is a clear idea regarding the essence of the case and, most importantly, the intentions of the government. The CEO of “Hellas Gold” Michalis Theodorakopoulos said he hasn’t had the time to read the decision that came out on Thursday in order to evaluate it. “We will examine the decision in depth, as well as the possibility of submitting a complaint”, he commented in his interview with the “MTK”, not confirming the alleged annoyance and frustration of the company. On the contrary, he believes that all of the technical problems can be solved.

On the other hand, the employees are on hold. This is obvious in their statementthat they issued last Thursday, where they did not mention anything on the subject, but they only disapproved of the fact that the minister visited Kozani on that day, and not the mines in Chalkidiki, to see “the Greek engineers who planned and carried out this task with honor, the miners and workers of this project, and all the Greek scientists who support the country’s development with their work”.

“We are waiting to see what this decision means”, was the comment of the representative of the Kassandra Mines Union Christos Zafeiroudas. He believes that it does not signify a new round of rivalry with the government and that the issue can be solved with an extensive technical dialogue, which should take place in the scientific community.

Revocations are expected

The “Hellenic Mining Watch” is certain of the appeal of “Hellas Gold” before the Council of State against the decision as well as the temporary suspension request pending the decision of the Council of State regarding the appeal, but it is also believed that the decision of Skourletis is “legal conclusive”because it involves a clear technical judgment of the management, the control of which is not within the jurisdiction of the court.  There is also the belief that the decision is “the final rejection of the flash smelting method by the competent service of the Ministry”, establishing the violation of “the contract and the ratification law” and forcing thecompetent ministry to go through with the revocation of all permits and approvals issued for the entire project (Skouries, Olympiada, Mavres Petres), which are “de facto infringed.”

Both rely on the Council of State

Interestingly enough, both “Hellas Gold” as well as the Minister of Environment with his rejectionrely on the Case 3191/2015 of the CoE. The decision of the Council of State finds the reasoning of the Ministry of Environment against flash smeliting mining vague and inadequate (and in particular the fact that the tests were conducted in Finland and off site), and redirected the case to the administration for new arbitrament, taking into account the comments of the company. In this context, last July the Ministry returnedto the companythe appendix of a technical study related to mining. This was followed by a fruitless dialogue with the Ministry, and then the company filed for appeal on September 9, demanding the withdrawal of the previous decision of the Minister (July 2016) referring to the decision of the Council of State (3191/15), which the Minister rejected with a decision he signed on Tuesday, November 2.

In the reasoning of the rejection, which was published in “Diavgeia” on Thursday, it is made clear that the decision ofJuly “in no way questioned the general applicability of the mining method” but to which extent the submitted Appendix dealt with environmental problems. According to the law EldoradoGold has two months from the rejection of Skourletis to appeal to the State Council against the decision.


[SOURCE: MAKEDONIA TIS KYRIAKIS, Sophia Christoforidou, 06/11/2016]