INSIGHT-Gold mine stirs hope and anger in shattered Greece

Mon Jan 13, 2014 3:04am EST
 
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* Mine becomes cause for anti-austerity movement

* Government says investment will proceed at all costs

* Locals fear for environment, livelihood in tourist hotspot

By Deepa Babington and Lefteris Papadimas

OURANOUPOLI, Greece, Jan 13 (Reuters) - A Canadian quest to mine for gold in the lush forests of northern Greece is testing the government's resolve to prove Europe's most ravaged economy is open again for business.

The Skouries mine on Halkidiki peninsula - a landscape of pristine beaches and rolling hills dotted with olive groves - is among the biggest investments in Greece since it sank into a debt crisis four years ago.

But it has set Greece's desperate need for finance to rebuild the economy against the interests of its vital tourism industry, and aroused anger on the peninsula - site of the famed Mount Athos monasteries - over the environmental cost.

Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold Corp took over the project in 2012, promising to invest $1 billion over the next five years as part of a plan to mine eventually source up to 30 percent of its global gold production in Greece. Yet preliminary work on the mine, which is supposed to open in 2016, has set off months of politicking and protests.

The row has overshadowed what was supposed to be the flagship project of the government's foreign investment drive. It also highlights Greeks' ambivalence about attempts by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to kindle industrial growth in an economy that has traditionally relied on tourism and services.   Continued...