ECONOMY

‘State should take mine’

The Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) yesterday called on the government to take over operation of the Mavres Petres mines in Halkidiki even as the Finance Ministry said it had assembled a group of investors willing to get the business going again. «There is no other possible solution but for the government to acquire the mining operation,» said Odysseas Kiriakopoulos, the president of SEV. Over a hundred miners are currently on a hunger strike, holed up in the mine in protest against Kinross Gold Corp’s decision to file for bankruptcy. The Canadian company acquired control of the mines after it took over TVX Gold, the parent of mining operation TVX Hellas, early this year. The mine employs some 500 people. TVX Gold last year took a $250 million write-down partly related to the mine after the Greek Supreme Court revoked a government decision to issue permits to the company to develop its Olympia base metals mine into a gold producer following protests by environmental groups and local residents. It declared force majeure in January this year while waiting for the government to reapprove a technical study on an expansion of the Mavres Petres mine. It would be easier for the State, as owner of the mines, to acquire the necessary permits, said Kiriakopoulos, criticizing the slew of legislation and intervention from local authorities that have led to the present stalemate. It could subsequently hold a tender to sell off the operation, he said. Deputy Finance Minister Christos Pachtas said a group comprising local authorities in Halkidiki, Greek mining and construction firms, and foreign investors is willing to get the operation started again. He said 22 million euros are needed to re-start the mines and a total of 250 million euros to complete the project.