Greece – Gold in Aristotele’s land

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Aristotele’s native region, beeches and oaks forests sloping into emerald sea waters, has been for years theatre to hard clashes. On one side Eldorado Gold, a Canadian multinational which took 30,000 hectares of Halkidiki Peninsula land and is pursuing a devastating mining project. On the opposite side people committed to protect the land and the population from an environmental disaster. Profiting of the “Crisis” and of an unemployment rate above 30%, Eldorado has been able to breakthrough in a Region where mining had been stopped just 10 years ago. Today the 16 villages of the area, where live around 20,000 people, are split between Eldorado miners army and Nogold activists hard-core. In Skouries, tens of primordial forests hectares have been destroyed to make room for the mines, while Eldorado is threatening all of Halkidiki Peninsula water sources to dry the exctraction galleries. In Stratoni and Olympiada mines, where Eldorado already started to extract minerals, toxic waste are poisoning farming and breeding, undermining fishing and tourism. Skouries forest has been transformed in a off-limits area, fenced with barbed-wire and monitored by Blackwater private guards and Greek policemen. The dispute between Eldorado and Tsipras government, which ordered to suspend activities in Skouries, is under arbitration panel. Those who are fighting against this nightmare are aware that the powerful multinational might soon find a way to restart its activities.

 

Eldorado mine site in Skouries forest. The soil here is rich in asbestos. To work on the site, Eldorado is threatening all of Halkidiki Peninsula water sources. Syriza government has ordered the Company to cease its activities until a new Environmental Impact Assessment be submittedNogold activists crossing Skouries forest directed to Eldorado site, where they will try to disrupt the work in progressOne of two waste pool sites where Eldorado plans to store Skouries mine dumping. The company is destroying an untouched primary forest area along Lotsaniko stream to make room for a 160m dam. The construction site is few hundred meters from Kalivas family land. Yorgos is the last Skouries forest inhabitant. His family has been growing here cherries, chestnuts and walnuts for four generationFotevany during a Nogold activists camp. In her hand the honey she produces from Skouries forestNogold activists in front of Eldorado site in Skouries forestA child playing on a swing during a Nogold activists camp in Skouries forestYorgos Kalivas in his family land. Yorgos is the last Skouries forest inhabitant. His family has been growing here cherries, chestnuts and walnuts for four generationOne of several Olympiada mine dumping sites. The waste coming from that mine is very rich in arsenicStratoni beach. Here fishing and bathing were banned until few years ago: in December 2002, after strong rainfalls, the sea became red cause of the toxic water coming from the mine galleries (at that time Stratoni mine was managed by TVX Hellas which commented the event as “an optical phenomenon”). In 2014, when Eldorado started to operate this mine, Samaras government gave to Stratoni the “blue flag” which is distinctive of purest seawater-spotYorgos Kalivas, last Skouries forest inhabitant. He was threatened several times by Eldorado private guards and undercover Greek policemenA Nogold activist gazing Eldorado site in Skouries forestGreek police ready to defend Eldorado site in Skouries forest from Nogold activists actionsPaliohori town. Like the whole region around Skouries mining site, the village is split between Eldorado employers and Nogold activistsKokkinolakos dump site, where Eldorado stores toxic waste from Olympiada mineA worker in Eldorado site, Skouries forestMiner's death celebration in PaliohoriSunrise at the Nogold activists camp in Skouries forestNogold activists gazing Eldorado site in Skouries forestNogold activists camp in the Skouries forestEldorado tracks crossing Skouries forestHoney boxes in Paliohori, one of the villages affected by Skouries miningStratoni townHouse for sale in Ierissos town, where tourism has been threatened by mining activities. Atmospheric pollutants produced by Eldorado are dispersed over very long distance and affect the whole Halkidiki PeninsulaWaterfalls in the forest behind Olympiada village. To work on Skouries site, Eldorado is threatening all of Halkidiki Peninsula water sourcesAristotele's Park in Stagira. The native village of the great philosopher is among the ones struck by Eldorado mining in Skouries forestOlympiada mine siteFishermen in Olympiada, where Eldorado toxic waste are threatening fishing and tourismA banner supporting mining in Neohori. As the whole area around Skouries mining site, the town is split between Eldorado employers and Nogold activistsThe “Five Springs” in the forest between Neohori and Olympiada. To work on Skouries site, Eldorado is threatening all of Halkidiki Peninsula water sourcesEldorado mine site in OlympiadaFrosso, a Nogold activist, with her husband Kostis in their house in OlympiadaProducers at the first “Organic and Handmade Fair” in Megali Panagia, the main home-town of Nogold activistsKaridi beach in Halkidiki PeninsulaMegali Panagia is the closest town to Eldorado mining in Skouries forest. As in the whole region around the mine, here people are divided between Company’s employers and Nogold activistsNogold activists headquarter in Megali PanagiaMegali PanagiaPaliohori church. Greek Orthodox Church supports mining

La regione natia di Aristotele, immacolate foreste di querce e faggi che si tuffano in acque turchesi, è da anni teatro di uno scontro violento. Da un lato la Eldorado Gold, una multinazionale canadese che con la complicità di politici corrotti si è appropriata di 30mila ettari della Penisola Calcidica e che porta avanti un devastante progetto di estrazione d’oro e altri minerali. Dall’altro gli attivisti locali e internazionali, che continuano a battersi per difendere il territorio e la sua popolazione dal disastro ambientale in corso. Approfittando della “Crisi” e di un tasso di disoccupazione che nella Calcidica supera il 30%, la Eldorado è riuscita a far breccia in una regione dove l’estrazione mineraria era stata bandita poco più di 10 anni fa. Oggi i 16 villaggi della zona, dove vivono circa 20mila persone, sono spaccati tra l’esercito dei minatori e lo zoccolo duro degli attivisti. A Skouries per far spazio alla miniera sono già stati cancellati decine di ettari di foresta primordiale, mentre le risorse idriche dell’intera Penisola Calcidica continuano a essere prosciugate per mettere in sicurezza le gallerie d’estrazione. A Stratoni e Olympiada, dove la Eldorado sta già estraendo, gli scarti di produzione e le polveri tossiche prodotti dell’attività mineraria avvelenano coltivazioni e allevamenti, compromettono pesca e turismo. La foresta di Skouries è divenuta una zona off-limits, avvolta nel filo spinato e presidiata giorno e notte dalla Blackwater, l’agenzia di sicurezza privata famosa per il ruolo svolto in Iraq, e dalla polizia greca. Il contenzioso tra la Eldorado e il governo Tsipras, che ha ordinato la sospenzione delle attività a Skouries, è in attesa di un arbitrato giudiziario. Chi da anni si batte contro quest’incubo sa bene che la potente multinazionale potrebbe trovare presto il modo per riprendere i lavori.

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