Court annuls TVX Gold mine permits

Saying that it had weighed the benefits of a gold recovery plant at Olympias on the Halkidiki peninsula against the environmental impact that the facility would have, the Council of State yesterday annulled the government permits issued for the project. This was a major setback to one of the largest planned foreign investments in Greece. The Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, ruled 20-7 in favor of a petition by local residents, judging that concerns over the environmental damage caused by the gold processing outweighed any economic benefits. Decision 613/2002 was published yesterday, after being leaked to the media last April. Toronto-based TVX has spent more than $250 million in Greece on the understanding that it would be allowed to develop the plant as part of its 1995 acquisition of a number of mining assets. «We are very disappointed with the decision,» said Sean Harvey, president and chief executive officer of TVX, in a news release from Toronto. «We have more than fulfilled our contractual obligations under the Acquisition Agreement and have spent in excess of $250 million in Greece with the understanding that, as specified in the ratified Acquisition Agreement, we would be given valid permits to enable us to develop a gold recovery plant at the Olympias site.» The company said it was examining its options. «Given the nature of the ruling, effectively blocking the development of the gold plant at Olympias, and taking into consideration the significant expenditures made to-date in progressing the development of the project, TVX will be reviewing all of its options, including possible legal remedies,» it said. The council’s decisions, however, cannot be appealed. TVX’s Stratoni base metal operation and the Skouries development project are unaffected by the Olympias decision. Villagers, however, have threatened to appeal to the Council of State over those facilities as well. They have staged several protests and have clashed with other locals who do not want to lose their jobs at the mines. The majority of the Council of State said that «the environmental capital that will be destroyed appears to outweigh the expected benefits from the importation of new mining technologies and the increase in employment in the area.»

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