Giovanni Lo Curto Photographer

The Golden Death

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Halkidiki, Greece 2016-18


In the mountains of Halkidiki in northern Greece, there has been a fierce struggle for more than thirty years against the mining industry and its destructive effects on nature. In the middle of the 317 square kilometer of Cassandra complex there are three mining sites: the Skouries gold and copper mine, the Stratoni silver, lead and zinc mine, and Olimpiada, a gold, lead and zinc mine with a processing plant.

Megali Panagia is the closest village to the Skouries mine. The local committee have organized a protest camp last August under the slogan "Ten days of Struggle for Skouries". It is intended to revive the fight against mining in the region. The activists want to control the actions of the mining companies in the proximity of the mine and inform the population and the public opinion about the current situation. The debate over mining projects in the villages with a strong mining tradition has become highly polarized. The conflict between those hoping to benefit from mining and those who want to avert its negative effects is becoming increasingly acute. Police and judicial repression reinforce this further.

The area affected by the mining projects is also a natural resource. In the middle of the planned mining area, almost untouched forests are growing and this ecosystem stores and purifies millions of cubic meters of water. There are also several archaeological sites and sixteen coastal and mountain villages whose economic survival depends on the water from the forests.

The harsh contrast between nature and the mining activities creates an impressive panorama. The forest seems that never ends but barbed wire and fences surround the mountain and reach its remotest corners. The sounds of nature mix with the shrill noise of the mining work, which can be heard coming from every direction. Even though the mine is still a few kilometers away, it seems that it will appear right behind the next row of trees. The destruction is huge. Since last November, the mining activities, which officially can only be exploratory work or care and maintenance, continues unabated

In particular the works on the tailing dam, situated in between the gorges formed from the rivers Karatzas and Losaniko, are well advanced. The trees there - some of them were up to three hundred years old - have already been felled and a 160-meter deep pit is being dug. The mine operators want to deposit the ore residues up to a height of 220 meters, which is a good 60 meters higher than the dike. Above that, trees will be planted on a 60 centimeter thick layer of earth. In order to prevent toxic substances from seeping into the soil and groundwater, Eldorado Gold wants to coat the bottom of the basin with a foil. According to the critics, however, the film will remain tight for a maximum of 50 years. When regular operations begin, the open pit mine is to be driven forward with six tons of explosives per day. It will have a diameter of two kilometers at a depth of 220 meters. The mining company plans to mine 24,000 tons of rock every day - each ton contains 0.8 grams of gold. Three square kilometers of forest have already been cleared. Already 15 million cubic meters of water per year are being pumped out. This would destroy the water-bearing layers in the soil and contaminate the remaining water with heavy metals and chemicals.

These months are crucial for the resistance. Judicial arbitration on the legality of Eldorado Gold's operation for breach of contract has been extended by 60 days to now end on April 6, 2018. Pending a positive arbitration for the environment, the Megali Panagia committee has already organized another edition of the race around Mount Skouries on the first of October. They also won one of the many trials that the Greek state and Eldorado Gold use to undermine the committee's actions.

A longer article is available. More photos are available upon request in my archive.