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‘Civil fight’ divides kin in Greek gold mine row

A file picture taken on January 9, 2004 showing

A file picture taken on January 9, 2004 showing gold bars on display. Scrawled on the walls of homes in the village of Megali Panagia in northern Greece are angry slogans that show how much this picturesque community has been torn apart by a controversial gold mining project. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA

THESSALONIKI, Greece, Sunday

Scrawled on the walls of homes in the village of Megali Panagia in northern Greece are angry slogans that show how much this picturesque community has been torn apart by a controversial gold mining project.

“Goldmines are a curse for every nation,” reads one, others are more profane.

For the past three years, the promise of a huge investment by a Canadian mining company has deeply divided the inhabitants of this spectacular corner of the Halkidiki peninsula, setting neighbours and even family members at each others’ throats.

ELDORADO GOLD

In Megali Panagia itself, tit-for-tat attacks on shops and cars belonging to rival factions of those for and against Hellas Gold — a subsidiary of Canadian firm Eldorado Gold — have been going on for years.

Until now, most of the demonstrations were by residents fearing that the project will cause irreversible damage to the beautiful forested peninsula, one of Greece’s most popular tourist areas.

But the arrival in January of a new leftist government that opposes the investment has sparked a mobilisation among Hellas Gold employees afraid of losing their jobs.

“A civil war is unfolding and the government must clear this situation up immediately,” says Yiorgos Kyritsis, a legal representative for the anti-mining faction.

“I know of one pending lawsuit concerning an assault between two brothers,” he told AFP.

Earlier this month, riot police were sent in when rival groups came close to clashing at an oak forest between the villages of Stratoni, where Hellas Gold has its base, and Ierissos, whose inhabitants mostly oppose the project.

Police minister Yiannis Panousis said some of the protesters fired bolts from slingshots. Panousis warned “there will be casualties” unless the situation is resolved.

The new leftist government has clearly declared its opposition to the project, with Energy and Environment minister Panagiotis Lafazanis recently pledging to “employ all possible legal means” to halt it.

After the latest protest, Lafazanis went further, accusing the company of acting “as a state within a state” and mobilising its staff to cause violence. (AFP

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