Suspension of Eldorado Gold investment in Greece sparks controversy

Suspension of Eldorado Gold investment in Greece sparks controversy

Eldorado Gold Corporation announced controversial plans on Monday to suspend investment at its operating mines, development projects and exploration assets in Greece.

According to an official company statement, despite repeated attempts by Eldorado and its Greek subsidiary, Hellas Gold, to engage constructively with the Greek government, the Ministry of Energy and Environment and other government agencies, delays continue in issuing routine permits and licenses for the construction and development of the Skouries and Olympias projects in Halkidiki, northern Greece. These permitting delays have negatively impacted Eldorado’s project schedules and costs, ultimately hindering the Company’s ability to effectively advance development and operation of these assets.

In a press conference on Monday, George Burns, President and CEO of Eldorado Gold, called the Greek government to review its stance towards the investment, underling that it is damaging for thousands of employees.

The CEO stressed that if the company is not granted the licenses it is entitled to until September 21, it will cease investment in Greece. Burns noted that licenses have not been granted for “unknown bureaucratic reasons”, underling that it’s impossible for the company to continue exposing its funds to risks, in a problematic landscape, where there necessary legal framework is non-existent.

Greece’s Minister for the Interior, Panos Skourletis – a former Energy minister – said Eldorado is “allergic” to adhering to agreements. “This is some kind of pressure ahead of the problems with the agreement it has with the State being referred to an arbitration body” he said.

The country’s Defense Minister, Panos Kammenos – who has fiercely attacked the company and its management in the past – said Eldorado’s decision is “not pleasant”, adding, however, that it is not his job to judge if the law is being observed with respect to the investment. “The country doesn’t need investments that lead to environmental catastrophes” Kammenos said, adding that he hoped the company would sit down for talks in order for its investment to continue.

Greek opposition parties heavily criticized the government over its stance, accusing it of turning away major investments while sending thousands of people to the unemployment office.

The leader of the main opposition party, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said the government was sending a negative message to foreign investors. “Syriza has for years done everything to stop the investment,” Mitsotakis said. “The government, with its usual cynicism, is playing political games on the backs of ordinary people who are losing their jobs,” he said.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos pointed to the main opposition on Monday as the possible instigator of Eldorado’s decision to announce the suspension of all investment activities in Greece, in order to create problems to the government after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ pro-business speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair on Saturday.

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos reiterated the view expressed by Tsakalotos. Tzanakopoulos told SKAI television that the “timing” of the announcement raised questions, adding that the leader of New Democracy had previously met with the company’s management./IBNA