Greece & Australia both tangled in mining investment conundrums

22 September 2017
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An interesting article from Australia about mining activities there and the similarities with our case:

Every time I read an analysis about the perils that the Australian economy faces, there’s always a moment where I laugh. It unmistakably happens whenever someone mentions that Australia is at risk of losing its AAA credit rating. I can’t help it. Because I come from a country with a credit rating fluctuating from B- at best to ‘rubbish’.

And yet, despite their obvious, massive difference, the two countries are currently facing a similar problem. They are both committed to pursuing an investment which is, by all accounts, bound to cause irreparable damage.

For Greece it is the goldmines that Canadian mining giant Eldorado Gold has been slowly trying to exploit in Halkidiki, meeting various obstacles in the meantime.

For Australia, it is the Carmichael coal mine that Indian mining giant Adani is building in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, a massive investment, subsidised by the federal government with $1 billion.

The company already faces a possible multi-million-dollar fine after sediment water eight times above authorised levels was discharged from the Abbot Point coal terminal, with locals corncerned about the potential damage to the wetlands. Protesters are warning against further damage to the already challenged Great Barrier Reef, as well as to the broader environmental risk that may affect the land. The investment has already been met with resistance by the Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners of the land who question the validity of the deal that saw native title passed on to the government.

Something similar has been happening in Greece.

Anyone who has been following the issue knows that the broader region around the small town of Ierissos – a place largely dependent on tourism, fishing, and farming – has been transformed into a no man’s land. The forest has been all but destroyed to make way for a large dam and tailings pond, filled with liquid waste contaminating the soil and endangering the water supplies. For the past few years, the area has also become a battle zone, as locals have persistently protested against the investment, fearing the effects that such a large-scale toxic industrial operation will have on the health of children and livestock.

Eldorado Gold has just conceded to stay, after issuing an ultimatum that it will leave the country if the Ministry of Energy does not grant a permit to allow for the construction of a smelter in Skouries. The flash-smelting method, proposed by Eldorado, was not in the initial contract and is considered to be unsuitable for the Halkidiki project, given that it will release 20,000 tons of arsenic in the air annually well above accepted levels, which is the reason behind the local community’s ongoing campaign against the project.

In both cases, the main argument for the projects to go forward is the opportunities for employment they create. Eldorado Gold claims to employ 2,000 people in Greece, which is stricken by the highest unemployment rate in the EU.

Adani also pledges to create thousands of jobs, and has already started calling for expressions of interest.

For both countries, a lot is at stake. Greece has to decide whether to further pursue mining and exploitation of natural wealth, or focus on the tourism industry.

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