Canadian firm fights gold mine ban by leftist Greek government

Fri Oct 2, 2015 7:25am EDT
 
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* Eldorado halted from developing mine in northern Greece

* Case tests Tsipras govt's approach to foreign investment

By Angeliki Koutantou

ATHENS, Oct 2 (Reuters) - A Canadian company appealed to Greece's top court on Friday to overturn a ban on its plans to develop a gold mine in a forested area of northern Greece, in a case widely seen as a test of the leftist government's approach to foreign investment.

Vancouver-based Eldorado's venture to extract gold and other ores on the verdant Halkidiki peninsula is seen as one of the top investments in a country racked by a debt crisis since the end of 2009. The company has put in more than $600 million since 2012 and plans to invest another $1 billion in its quest for gold, copper and zinc at two other sites.

But a day before resigning to call a general election, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government revoked Eldorado's permit for the Halkidiki mine in mid-August, citing environmental grounds, in a move that showed Greece remains a risky bet for investors.

Eldorado then suspended all its activities at the mine and made most of its 1,300 workers temporarily redundant.

Some 500 of its workers demonstrated on Friday in support of the company's appeal outside the Council of State, Greece's highest administrative court, some carrying a banner that proclaimed: "No future without the ores".

Their trade union has joined the company's lawsuit against Greece's energy ministry, which had tried to block the investment since February. On Aug. 19, Energy Minister Panos Skourletis, a hardline leftist, accused Eldorado's Greek unit, Hellas Gold, of violating environmental safety guidelines.   Continued...