ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A group of miners from northern Greece clashed with police Wednesday outside government buildings in Athens during a protest called after their Canada-based mining company threatened to suspend investments in the country.
A small group managed to push past police and enter the building, while riot police fired volleys of pepper spray to push back the protesters. A delegation from the protesters later met with Environment Minister Giorgos Stathakis.
The miners from the Eldorado Gold mine in the Halkidiki region were seeking assurances for their jobs after Eldorado Gold said Monday it would suspend operations except for maintenance and environmental work on Sept. 22 unless licenses it said were pending were issued in time.
The government says the company has not provided some required information for the pending permits, and says they will go to arbitration, which is to begin in the coming days.
After meeting with the workers, Stathakis said that three pending permits for one of the mine's operations were to be issued this week, as had previously been announced, while the remaining differences were to go through the arbitration process, expected to last about three months.
Later Wednesday, Eldorado Gold announced it had received two permits, one of which is an operating permit for its mine in Olympias, valid for three years.
"This is a positive step forward," company president and CEO George Burns was quoted as saying in a company press release. "However, we are still waiting on other permits."
The company's stance has angered the government, which has accused Eldorado Gold of attempting to apply political pressure, timing their announcement two days after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made a speech at an annual trade fair stressing Greece was friendly to international investments.
This is the third time in as many years that Eldorado Gold has made similar announcements. The company employs more than 2,000 staff and contractors in Greece.
The mines in Halkidiki have faced vehement opposition from many in the local communities, who say they fear widespread pollution and the destruction of forests. The company says it is cleaning up pollution left by its predecessors and that it carries out extensive environmental restoration work.