The mines of Halkidiki are a golden opportunity that should not go wasted

11.000.000 euro: The price that Hellas Gold paid to obtain the mining rights of an area of 317.000 acres in northern Halkidiki (also Chalkidike). The contract was signed with the Greek State after the intervention of Mr. Pachtas, the then under-secretary of Finance and now mayor of Aristoteles municipality. There was no competition prior to the contract. There was a direct commission instead to a company that had only been established two days before (a company with a stock capital of 60.000 euro!). Moreover, according to the terms of the contract, the company was exempt from any obligation regarding the reparations that were due because of the ecological damage that the Canadian TVX Gold had caused in the area (the latter company disappeared one night into thin air leaving 472 workers without pay; in total the company’s debt towards workers was 17 million euro).

95.700.000 euro: The profit that Leonidas Bobolas, Dimitrios Koutras and Frank Timiş (the main stockholders of Hellas Gold) made after they gradually broke the company in fragments and then sold them to the mother multinational European Goldfields.

408.000.000 euro: The market value of the mines according to the estimate that a global financial services firm gave six months after their signing over by the Greek State, which means that the value grew 37 times higher than the price paid. This did not stop the then government to subsidize Hellas Gold with 15.000.000 euro.

2.300.000.000 euro: Today’s value of the mines in the Toronto Stock Exchange, after the takeover of European Goldfields by Eldorado Gold Corporation, which now controls 95% of Hellas Gold shares. Eldorado Gold is a Canada-based multinational corporation and its main investors are funds and banks like J. P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs.

15.436.000.000 (!) euro: The value of the minerals that lie in the mines of Halkidiki.

0 euro: The profit of the Greek State. According to the Mining Code, the ore resources and deposits of mines belong exclusively to the companies that exploit them, and there is no clause of rendering any mining rights to the State due to their exploitation. This is reason why the IMF/ECB/EU Troika refused to accept the proposal of the Greek government, which offered the Halkidiki mines as a guaranty during negotiations for the loan agreement.

Those who react are provocateurs and stand against progress

Many people probably think that Eldorado Gold intends to construct underground mines with shafts, digging tunnels, etc. But this is not the case. The mega-project is going to focus on a process of extraction of the gold, a surface pit, which involves the extensive use of toxic cyanide. The cyanide concentration will turn the soil into garbage leaving behind toxic waste, mainly cyanide, arsenic and sulphuric acid.

0.8 grams: This is the amount of gold they can extract per ton in this area.

18 tons: That’s how many tons of waste rock will be excavated to yield one gold ring.

2 km: This is the length that the open pit is going to have in diameter, plus the waste lakes (pools of poison) where the toxic fluids are going to be ‘contained’.

3.000 acres of forest are going to be destroyed before the mining project can commence.

200 million tons: According to the company’s plan, this is the number of tons that are going to be extracted in the next few years. In the 2.500 years that mines have been operational in Halkidiki, only 30 million tons were mined; out of this number, the 20 million tons were extracted since 1927 by the businessman Bodossakis.

15.000.000 cubic meters of water is now pumped out in the mining area per year, the equivalent of a year’s water consumption for the entire Halkidiki Peninsula.

691.000 liters: The average consumption of water for one kilo of extracted gold. It is not however only the waste of water resources that is incalculable but also the danger and the consequences of an accident. In a gold mine of the Baia Mare region, Romania, in the year 2000 there was a leakage of 100.000 cubic meters of water with high concentrations of cyanide and other heavy metals. This contaminated water reached the Tesla River and then the Danube, causing pollution beyond Romania, Hungary and Serbia, poisoning drinking water resources, killing dozens of thousands of fish and inflicting the death of the neighbouring ecosystems. This environmental accident in Baia Mare is considered the most catastrophic one in the history of the European continent, second only to the Chernobyl disaster. Thus, the destructiveness of the mines in the Skouries region in Halkidiki is not something that should concern only the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages but the Halkidiki Peninsula as whole (since the groundwater supplies will inevitably be contaminated). In case of an accident it will definitely affect the densely populated area of Thessaloniki, too, and there is no telling where such a disaster will end…

Soil, water and air are priceless, and belong to all of us. Gold, on the other hand, is an abstract concept that, especially today, acquires value when it functions as ‘money’, when it is used as an effort to counterbalance the ‘over-the-top money’, money invented out of thin air, that came into being three decades ago through bank lending and the stock exchanges’ system of speculation and gambling. We have to point out the fact that only the 10% of the world’s extracted gold deposits are actually put to some tangible use. At the same time, the quantity of gold that is being used as ‘money’ in stock exchanges and in the international monetary system is seven times more than the real quantity of gold which can be found in the planet.

‘Development and progress’ is the echo following the announcements concerning the gold mines, as well as the wind turbines on Lesvos and Limnos islands, and elsewhere, the waste incineration factories; all these plus innumerable other such crimes are presented as the antidote to the crisis, the same crisis that the development itself created. The case of the gold mines is the most extreme one, out of all these ‘developing crimes in the name of progress’, due to the fact that no one even dares to oppose the destruction that they are about to cause, but also because—as we all know by now—the multinationals will draw all the profit, apart from a short-term small portion that will go to a few hundred workers. Furthermore, it is not coincidental that this scandalous transaction scam of the northern-eastern Halkidiki mines took place during a period of affluence, at a time when no one paid any attention, while the realization of the mega-project, the actual construction of the mines, is pushed forward now, amidst the crisis. Here, we are faced with blunt blackmail: we have to either accept such a plainly and straightforward destructive proposition, or else we will not manage to survive.

The whole problem with capitalistic growth is not simply that there are some businesspeople and politicians who are squeezing exorbitant profits out of everybody else, and in order to do so—always in the name of the profit—they will destroy the environment, but the plain fact that our lives are being governed by an international money mafia that kills humans, animals and the Earth. The true face of progress is one of a vicious circle that will constantly dictate even harsher terms in order to exploit more each time. Development manages to achieve this through the breaking up of communities and the weakening of individuals, bonding them tighter and tighter to the chariot of this mechanism of death and destruction called capitalism. Consequently, this ongoing collapse gives birth to certain types of people who fall prey to the blackmail—because they are so desperately looking for single-handed solutions that seem to be in their own self-interest—and eventually believe that their interests are the same ones with those of multinational corporations. They do not care about the impact that their choices have on the whole of society, the consequences of which will soon knock also on their door.

The system wishes to incapacitate us so that we are in no position to decide for ourselves. Its whole existence depends on whether we choose to bind ourselves to the dynamic engine of capitalism, in order to survive or even enjoy a share of the profits of the capitalistic growth. If we want to stand against this dictatorship of money, if we want to build another world, we cannot succumb to this blackmail of crisis that is offering further disasters and is driving us towards the desperate pursuit of a personal bailout while threatening entire communities with mass destruction. We can neither hand over our future to any sort of saviours. On the contrary, we must fight to defend common goods and resources. We must fight to put an end to the activities of these mega-companies and of all the politicians who are in their payroll. We must struggle to prevent the destruction of people’s communities.

Social solidarity, collective consciousness and human values are our weaponry.

We must meet and discuss. Which goods are necessary? Which are the values that we should fight for? How do we take decisions? How can we, ourselves, organize and take charge of our lives?

Whoever is silent is an accomplice to the crime…

– Open Coordination of Thessaloniki against the gold mines


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