Minister softens stance, cites need for ‘compromise’ in standoff over Skouries mines

1 April 2016
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A bitter feud between the relevant environment minister and mining multinational El Dorado Gold, which holds the concession to the Skouries gold mining operation in northern Greece, appears to have cooled, with Minister Panos Skourletis on Thursday referring to the need for a compromise with the Canadian company.

An acrimonious round statements and counter-statements came in February when the energy and environment ministry, which Skourletis heads, slapped a suspension on Hellas Gold’s activities at the Skouries complex, citing legal and environmental violations. The concessionaire’s parent company, El Dorado, reacted angrily and threatened to close down all of its activities in Greece, including at another mining operation in Olympiada, near Skouries. Both sites are located in northern Halkidiki prefecture.

In late February, Skourletis accused El Dorado CEO Paul Wright of deliberately “shorting” shares when he announced that a suspension of operations in January. Meetings between company executives and ministry leadership proved fruitless throughout January and February.

In statements to Bloomberg, the Greek minister went as far as saying that the top mining executive “told his friends” of the multinational’s plans to suspend mining at the Skouries site so that they could sell and buy-back at a lower price.

A company spokesperson at the time replied that the statement was “utter nonsense” and defamatory and Wright has threatened legal action against Skourletis.

Nevertheless on Thursday, the minister referred to a “necessary compromise by all sides” in dealing with Skouries, which is the biggest foreign mining investment in Greece, exceeding a projected one billion euros.

Leftist SYRIZA party, when in the opposition, was bitterly opposed to the Skouries investment, although once in government top party cadres softened their stance towards foreign direct investment, especially projects and privatizations directed cited in the third bailout agreement’s terms.

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