Minister debates TVX investment with locals, final decision on Friday

Deputy Development Minister Alexandros Kalafatis said yesterday the government is interested in tapping the full development potential in the area of Stratoniki village in Halkidiki, northern Greece, where local residents have been concerned over the effects of the development of mining installations in the area. According to a press release, Kalafatis, accompanied by engineering specialists and local government officials, held long talks with residents at the village who say that work carried out by TVX Hellas, a division of Canadian-based TVX Gold Inc, has caused subsidence and cracks in buildings. The government had been expected to announce last Friday a decision on whether to grant TVX Hellas a permit to expand its base metals mine under the village, but the decision was put off for a week. Yesterday’s press release confirmed that, after further consultations, the final decision will be announced this Friday. TVX Hellas Chief Executive Officer John Raisbeck was quoted by The Associated Press last week as saying that «without the permit, we just do not have a future here.» At yesterday’s meeting, which included discussion of a plan for a possible diversion of work under the village, National Technical University Professor K. Panagopoulos presented a report indicating that the mining method used by TVX minimizes dangers. According to AP, Reisbeck also said, «we much prefer to have a permit that is fully supported by all the stakeholders.» TVX announced a suspension of operations in December, but later showed cautious optimism after Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos announced that obstacles impeding work to progress had been lifted and that a regional mining inspectorate had given permission to continue. TVX’s operations in Halkidiki have been plagued by permit delays and opposition by local residents since it acquired a former state-owned gold processing plant at Olympias, on the Cassandra peninsula southeast of Thessaloniki. The investment, which the company says amounts to more than $250 million, has been billed as one of the largest ever in Greece, but its future looks uncertain after the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, reportedly ruled against it last April, citing environmental concerns. The ruling was reported in the Greek press but has not been officially released by the court. Airlines analysts, skeptical of the viability of a modest-sized European carrier with only distant memories of profitability, have suggested that any buyer would cull routes drastically, focusing on a regional but more profitable network.

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