A Canadian-based gold-mining company said yesterday it was «cautiously optimistic» that it would be granted vital permission to expand its mining operations, despite the government delaying the decision by a week. TVX Hellas, a division of TVX Gold Inc, one of Greece’s largest foreign investors, says its future in the country hinges on permission to expand its base metals operation in northern Greece. The company’s original plans, which included opening a gold processing plant at Olympias, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) east of Thessaloniki, have been plagued by permit delays and local opposition since 1995, when TVX bought the former state-run Cassandra mine complex. The company says it has already invested more than $250 million in the Olympias project. TVX Hellas has applied for a permit to extend its base metals mine under the village of Stratoniki, near Olympias. «Without the permit, we’ve got no business to be here,» said TVX Hellas Chief Executive Officer John Raisbeck. «The fact of the matter is that without that permit, we just do not have a future. That’s the reality of it.» The Development Ministry was originally expected to make a decision yesterday. But it has now deferred the decision until Feb. 15, saying officials will first visit the mining operation and then will meet with local residents next week to discuss the issue. «I am cautiously optimistic that we are going to get a decision in our favor next Friday. I must say I thought it would happen today, but it hasn’t,» Raisbeck said. «We understand the position of the government… We much prefer to have a permit that is fully supported by all the stakeholders,» Raisbeck said. A group of Greek university professors has issued a report which found that the mining method proposed by TVX «is the safest possible,» the Development Ministry said. Although gold mining and processing at Olympias was TVX’s main reason for investing in Greece, that project looks unlikely to go ahead after the country’s highest administrative court reportedly ruled last April to cancel government permits due to environmental concerns raised by the local population. The ruling was reported by Greek media but has not yet been officially published by the court. The reason for the long delay is unclear. The company says it is now relying on its base metal mining to keep its operation viable. Migrant smugglers use the remote, mountainous borders in the north of Greece. African immigrants come to Greece across the Bulgarian border, and there are increasing numbers of migrants from Asia, who used to come to Greece via the Evros or by sea (which they still do). Mass illegal immigration to Greece was the first consequence of the great changes that took place in the Balkans.