Lesson for BC: Mining Politics Can Be Terribly Corrosive – by Kristian Secher (The Tyee.ca – August 11, 2014)


Consider Greece, where mistrust of Canadian mine safety helped spark massive revolt.

Friday’s blockade of the Imperial Metals’ Red Chris Mine site by members of the Tahltan Nation brings to mind scenes from another place, where plummeting faith in government safeguards after a rush to profit from resource extraction has fueled not just isolated protests but a full-scale political revolt tinged with violence.

That place is Greece, where two years ago I visited to report on the situation. My destination was the northernmost region of Greece, Halkidiki, the birthplace of Aristotle, embroiled in conflict after Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold scooped up most of the local mining industry and unveiled their billion dollar development plan in the austerity stricken region of Europe’s poorest country.

The gold grab made the empty state coffers in Athens rattle with joy but the people of Halkidiki were not as pleased. They had not forgotten the mess left behind by the previous Canadian owner TVX, (later Kinross Gold), nine years earlier and the prospect of renewed mining operations was not encouraging to the inhabitants of the tourism dependent region known for its pristine forests and sandy beaches.

TVX abandoned their properties in 2002 when Greece’s state council ruled that the potential risks of redeveloping the mines would exceed any benefits from the project. In 2003 ownership of the mining area was transferred to the state for a net sum of 11 million euros (C$16 million). A few hours later the area was owned by Hellas Gold (now an Eldorado subsidiary) who bought it for the exact same price — a deal the European Commission later ruled was in breach of European regulations as the sale price was well below market value.

Stoking the outrage: the transfer to Hellas Gold was largely backed by Traktor, the biggest construction company in Greece, now one of Eldorado’s investors and also construction partner on the mining project.

Allegations of corruption were muttered on corners of Halkidiki streets and when Hellas Gold had their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report approved by the Greek government, mine opposition was furious they had not been given a chance to weigh in their concerns. Again, it did not help that the EIA was prepared by Hellas Gold themselves.

Slowly the protests began, gaining more and more support. In November, 2012, 10,000 people took to the streets in Thessaloniki, the capital of the region, and marched peacefully to halt the Canadian mining venture.

But their voices never carried to Athens where the government was set on kickstarting development in the mineral rich northern region. To do so, they came up with the Fast Track Law in 2010, a program where foreign investors could bypass the nefarious Greek bureaucracy by providing a onetime payment to the ruling government in the cradle of democracy. It was through the very same program Eldorado secured the mining rights in Halkidiki a year later.

For the rest of this article, click here: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2014/08/11/Mining-Politics-Corrosive/