Prehistoric finds in danger in Grevena

Milia, Grevena, in northern Greece, sparked worldwide interest when geologists from Aristotle University uncovered some remarkable paleontological remains. Among their recent finds are a 5-meter tusk from a mastodon, Mammut borsoni, which lived some 2-3 million years ago. The finds yield information about the life and environment of the massive beast that roamed the once-forested area of Grevena. But their traces, which have survived 2.5 millennia, are at risk of vanishing due to the exploitation of natural resources. So say residents of Milia, who have appealed to the country’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, against a decision by the Culture Ministry that had ruled in favor of a quarry in the area. The 13 residents of Milia attest that «sand-mining activity has brought about changes in the morphology of the land and destroyed both the environment (encroaching on a forest area) as well as paleontological and Neolithic finds.» The privately owned quarry, according to the appeal, has been in operation since 1997, despite negative reports from both the Culture Ministry’s Ephorate of Paleoanthropology and Speleology and the Local Monuments Councils of Western Macedonia, who unanimously recommended that a permit «not be granted for the operation of the quarry and an immediate halt to the operation of the existing installation.» According to the expert opinion of the First Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, «an archaeological site with a Neolithic settlement, remains of which were collected in 2003, has been destroyed in the 87,755-square-meter area.» On these grounds, legal action was taken against the owners of the company on May 25, 2005 for «illegally operating a quarry and polluting the environment, causing damage to a Neolithic settlement and risking the degradation of the historic and cultural heritage of the surrounding area.» The permit to operate a quarry for 20 years on the 87,755-square-meter site was issued in March 2006, when the culture minister overruled an earlier decision which had not approved the preliminary environmental impact study for the project.