Gold mining in Halkidiki divides local community

Local officials in Halkidiki have vowed to continue their cooperation with a Canadian gold mining firm aiming to complete a 1.3-billion-euro development in the area despite mounting protest from residents.

A meeting of the municipal council in Ierissos on Friday night was cancelled after protesters disrupted the meeting, clashed with police and overturned cars. Some members of the council claimed self-styled anarchists had come to the town from other areas to cause trouble.

However, the project to exploit the Olympias and Skouries mines has drawn opposition from residents and environmental groups, which held up the concession in the past.

Christos Pachtas, the mayor of Aristoteli, insisted that the scheme would be beneficial for the local community.

?Our aim is to use the mineral wealth of our land and stand on our own two feet,? he said. ?Unfortunately, I?m afraid that all these reactions are not being prompted by something else, not concern about the environmental impact.?

Canadian firm Eldorado Gold, which took on the concession last year, had been prepared for opposition to its plans about 350,000 ounces of gold annually in Halkidiki.

?This is an opportunity that will show whether an international mining company with high-profile institutional shareholders is able to work in Greece,? Paul Wright, Eldorado?s president and chief executive, said in an interview with the Financial Times in December.

Eldorado Gold says the projects would create 1,800 jobs in the area.