Workers stage counter-protest at disputed Greek gold mine

Mon Aug 24, 2015 11:10am EDT
 
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ATHENS Aug 24 (Reuters) - Workers at a Canadian-run gold mine in northern Greece staged a counter-protest on Monday against its threatened closure, a day after scuffles broke out at a demonstration by activists opposed to the project.

About 200 workers gathered at two sites in the scenic Halkidiki region, briefly blocking roads in protest at a government decision which Canadian Eldorado Gold said put all 2,000 jobs at the site at risk.

The leftist government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced last Wednesday that it was halting the $1 billion project, saying the company had violated contractual terms. Tsipras and his government resigned the following day.

On Sunday, rival protesters who oppose the scheme on environmental grounds or because of its foreign ownership clashed with police. A total of 78 people were briefly detained for throwing petrol bombs and stones, police said.

With the local community divided over the project, workers employed either by Eldorado directly or by contractors took their turn to protest on Monday, fearing for their jobs.

"Today, letters suspending about 200 workers have been delivered, while all the workers who have been employed by contractors were fired," Christos Zafeiroudas, who represents about 500 miners at the Skouries mine, told Reuters.

"Is it fair that 2,000 families are left without a job because of the decision of a minister in a government that resigned the next day?" he asked.

Tsipras's resignation after seven months in office paved the way for a snap election likely next month.

Energy Minister Panos Skourletis withdrew government approval of technical studies on the project, halting part of its operations. Activity could resume only if the company met its contract obligations, he said.

"Tensions are not helping," said an energy ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Workers should not be taken hostage."

Two union leaders who took part in the protests were detained for obstructing traffic on Monday but were expected to be released later in the day, a police official said. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by David Stamp)