Greek miners protest against government decision threatening their jobs

Thu Apr 16, 2015 6:58am EDT
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ATHENS, April 16 (Reuters) - Thousands of workers at a Canadian-run gold mine in northern Greece protested in Athens on Thursday against a decision by the new leftist government to revoke the company's licence to develop the mine.

Eldorado Gold has spent about $400 million in the gold mine project in Skouries, in the lush forest of Halkidiki, since 2012. It wants to invest another $700 million by 2017 to build a processing plant and develop two mines in the area.

The investment has been a test case for Greece's will to attract foreign investment and kickstart its economy after years of austerity-induced recession.

Skouries has stirred violent clashes between the mine workers and opposing local communities who say that the investment would destroy the environment.

In a rare rally of this scale in favour of the project, thousands of workers worried they may lose their jobs gathered outside the environment ministry in their safety vests and helmets, waving flags which read "Yes to mines, yes to growth."

About 2,000 people are currently employed by the project and the company planned to hire another 1,000 by 2020, in a country struggling with record high joblessness.

"We will not negotiate our right for employment, for dignity," representatives of the workers said in a statement.

The workers plan to march to parliament later on Thursday. A protest against the project has also been called for the evening.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's government, which took power in January on promises to end austerity and reverse privatisations, revoked Eldorado's licence in February, saying it wanted to examine whether it was in line with town planning and environment regulations.

Eldorado said the government's decision could force it to reconsider its investment plans. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Alkis Konstantinidis; Editing by Karolina Tagaris/Jeremy Gaunt)