By Brent Patterson,
This evening I heard Vaggelis Lampakis (the mayor of Alexandroupoli in the Thrace region of Greece) and Maria Kadoglou (an activist from the Halkidiki peninsula) speak at the University of Ottawa about mines being developed in their country by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold. They were accompanied by Tolis Papageorgiou who is also from the Halkidiki peninsula.
They have travelled more than 7,500 kilometres to speak in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver to raise public awareness in Canada about the impacts the mines would have on their forests, land and water, and the harm the company has already brought to their community and democratic process.
Maria spoke about the Skouries open-pit gold mine near the town of Ierissos. Her community has serious concerns about the mine consuming and polluting the scarce amount of water they have for drinking and for agriculture.
Already hundreds of acres of forest have been flattened by bulldozers in preparation for the mine which is set to open in 2015. The mayor spoke about the Perama Hill gold mine near his town. He emphasized that the cyanide that would be used in this mine means death. He highlighted that 22 mayors in the region oppose the mine, and that whether it receives a permit or not, the people will not allow it to operate.
About 30 people were present for this public forum (though hundreds more will hear about it through social media and conversations). And what made this evening particularly charged was that three Eldorado Gold executives from Greece were in the audience along with the Vancouver-based president of the company. They were welcomed by the speakers and undoubtedly left (part way through the evening) with a clearer sense of the determination of the people (both in Greece and Canada) to resist them and their mines.
Notably, Churchill, Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton was also in the audience. She highlighted that since the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) has invested in Eldorado Gold that anyone with a Social Insurance Number has an involvement in this and should speak out against the mines. Jamie Kneen from MiningWatch Canada moderated the evening – and noted that a petition would be circulated soon highlighting the CPP issue, that the federal Export Development Corporation is backing Eldorado Gold, and calling on the Canadian government and the Canadian ambassador to Greece to support the people of Greece and not this corporation.
The Council of Canadians is very pleased to be co-sponsoring this speaking tour, to be providing support to help cover the costs of it, and to have staff and activists in each of the cities helping to organize and promote our Greek friends visit and their determined resistance.
For more, please go to:
Maria being interviewed on CBC Radio
Mayor Lampakis challenging the Canadian ambassador
A video showing popular resistance to the Skouries mine
A news report of police repression against opponents of the mines