On July the 13th of 2011 the Ministry for the Environment (YPEKA) sent a letter to the district government of Kilkis asking them to express their opinion on the leasing of two areas in the prefecture of Kilkis (central north Greece) for the creation of copper-gold mines: the first on the mountain range of Kroussia (roughly 91 km2) and the second on mount Paiko (roughly 84 km2).
The Ministry for the Environment announces an open “public consultation” for the creation of mines in the two above mentioned areas in the prefecture of Kilkis. Both the announcement and the “consultation” itself take place only through the internet - many villages in these two areas are remote and don’t even have access to any kind of internet connection. Plus most of the villages’ inhabitants are old-aged farmers with absolutely no computer literacy. This so-called consultation runs for roughly 30 days (19/10/2011 - 15/11/2011) and gets a total of 11 (eleven) comments. Comments which are negatively positioned towards the creation of the mines are censored and never published.
The two municipalities of the prefecture of Kilkis (municipality of Kilkis and municipality of Paionia) are NOT informed by the Ministry for the Environment about either the public consultation or the plans for the creation of mines in their respective areas of responsibility. Both municipal councils are surprised when informed by citizens about the ministry’s intentions.
Concerned citizens start to organize themselves in order to first educate themselves about the environmental and social implications the presence of copper-gold mines will have in the area. Contacts are made with people from other areas in northern Greece where gold mines already exists or have been announced. The Front Against the Mines in Kroussia-Paiko is formed and starts its struggle by educating and informing the local populace on the subject, with the help of professors from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
On December the 19th Eldorado Gold Corporation announces the buyout of European Goldfields which has the mining rights in the Chalkidiki area of Skouries and makes clear its interest for any further gold mining areas that might open in northern Greece.
On January the 4th of 2012 the Ministry for the Environment announces an open international bidding for the leasing of the area on the mountain range of Kroussia (where our hometown of Kilkis is located) for the purpose of installing copper - gold mines. The end day of the bidding is the 14th of March 2012. The area to be leased has a total size of 91 km2 (9100 hectares) and contains 12 (twelve) inhabited villages. It also contains the drainage basin of Galikos River from which the city of Kilkis, many smaller towns and villages, plus a part of the city of Thessaloniki get their drinking water.
After pressure from local citizens, the Ministry for the Environment calls representatives of local government from the prefecture of Kilkis in Athens, on January the 19th 2012 with the purpose of informing them about the Ministry’s plans. The representatives return even more skeptic and distrustful and say so publicly.
On February the 6th 2012 and after many calls from the local representatives, officials from the Ministry for the Environment come to the city of Kilkis to try to convince the (very angry) public about the advantages that gold and copper mining will offer to the area. The most important thing that was said, was the ministry’s assurance that if the public - as expressed through their elected representatives - decided against the creation of the mines, the whole process would be stopped and the international bidding would be canceled.
On February the 13th 2012 the Municipal Council of Kilkis unanimously decides that the creation of copper - gold mines in its district is not wanted under any circumstances. Almost sixty NGO, scientific bodies, unions etc have similarly expressed themselves against the creation of copper-gold mines.
On February the 16th 2012 the Ministry for the Environment invites the local representatives to a committee of the Greek Parliament to discuss all aspects of the copper-gold mines. The ministry’s under-secretary Mr Maniatis accuses everyone of having “phobic syndromes” when told that the municipal council and the public had already decided against the installation of the mines. When asked about the total absence of information or the non-existing consultation with the public, he pleaded lack of personnel and financial resources. But he insisted that somehow the process of informing the public would continue (in committees in Athens that local people could not participate) and that the public’s final decision would be respected. Contrary to his promise, no other actions on that direction were taken. Instead the bidding process went on as planned.
On March the 14th 2012 final day of the international bidding process, two offers are received by the Ministry for the Environment. One is by AKTOR SA (which has formed a subsidiary with Eldorado Gold Corporation) and another by ELMIN SA (a bauxite and aluminium mining company.)
Due to the double Greek elections, the committee that was assigned the task of selecting the prefered bidder delays the announcement of its decision.
On July the 23rd 2012 representatives of the prefecture of Kilkis, including a member of parliament, the head of the regional government, members of both the municipal authority and the Kilkis Bar Association, visit the under-secretary of the Ministry for the Environment to state once again their total opposition to the planned mine and to deliver to him a memorandum signed by 70 local authorities, scientific bodies, unions etc. In addition, they bring to the attention of the under-secretary studies that contain significant evidence for the existence of uranium deposits in the area to be mined. They raise the alarm about the implications these deposits will have to the public health.
On July the 31st 2012 the committee that was assigned the task of selecting the prefered bidder announces its final decision. The bidding is adjudicated to AKTOR SA.
On August the 24th a question by all three locally elected members of parliament is asked to the Ministry for the Environment about the planned mine. A series of issues are raised regarding all aspects (economical, environmental and related to the will of the local people that is not taken under consideration) of the proposed mine.
On August the 30th 2012 a rally is organised in the city of Kilkis. Almost 2500 people are gathered to declare their opposition. All the elected representatives and the church once again state their total and unwavering antithesis to the planned mine which will destroy all prospects of growth and development and have serious health implications for the local population.
On October 2012 nine local bodies and entities (including the Municipal Council of Kilkis) file an appeal on the Administrative Court of Appeal of Athens, asking for the cancellation of the bidding process. The hearing is set for the the 5th of April 2013.
Representatives of the Greek Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration secretly visit the city of Kilkis on December 7th 2012 and have a meeting with members of the District Government of Kilkis and two members of the Municipal Council. The meeting was about the inclusion of another 30 km2 in the area of Pontokerasia (in Mount Kroussia) for gold exploration. No announcements are made for five days, after which a news release from the District Government of Kilkis talks about “survey of the watertable in the area of Pontokerasia”...
On January the 13th 2013, the Greek Minister of Interior Mr Stylianidis, visits the city of Kilkis and has a meeting with representatives of the local people who are opposed to the mine. He refers to “certain circles that promote gold mining and have been doing so for the last 2-3 years” and says that “they are offering beads for diamonds”, thus clarifying the no benefit is expected either for the local or the national economy. (note: Mr Stylianidis is elected in Thrace, where they face a similar problem with gold mining.)
On April 5th 2013 the Administrative Court of Appeal of Athens announces that the hearing is postponed because the Greek Ministry of the Environment has not lodged its own memo about the case. A new date is set for the 20th of September 2013.