THESSALONIKI, Greece – A Greek prosecutor ordered the release Monday of a 54-year-old man hours after he was arrested in connection with an attack on a Canadian-owned gold mining operation in which about 40 masked intruders torched machinery and vehicles.
Police had arrested the man for “moral instigation” of the attack due to his contributions to an anti-mining blog.
The prosecutor later ordered him released without officially charging him, while also ordering the investigation to continue.
Opposition to the Skouries mining project in northern Greece’s Halkidiki peninsula runs deep and the area has seen numerous protests in recent months, some of which have turned violent.
The mining company, Hellas Gold, which is 95 per cent owned by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold Inc. (TSX:ELD), is planning a gold mine and processing plant in the area.
Residents are divided between those who fear environmental destruction and those who support the mine for its job prospects at a time of severe financial crisis and spiralling unemployment.
In the overnight attack between Saturday and Sunday, intruders overpowered security guards at the Skouries facility or forced them to flee before dousing machinery, vehicles and containers used as offices with gasoline and setting the place alight.
A statement on Eldorado’s website said the intruders illegally entered its Skouries project shortly after midnight Saturday night and assaulted two security officers.
“One sustained injuries which required hospitalization and has subsequently been released,” the company said.
It said the group then set fire to the company’s temporary construction offices as well as several trucks and heavy equipment, most of which were owned by local contractors.
“While we respect the right of individuals to voice their opinions in a safe, legal and responsible manner we fully condemn any activities that put the safety of our employees, contractors and assets at risk,” Eldorado CEO Paul Wright said.
“The company is in possession of all permits required to operate legally at its projects in Halkidiki. These projects are licensed under an environmental impact assessment, which consisted of an exhaustive technical review as well as comprehensive public consultations. In Halkidiki, as in all our mining operations throughout the world, we operate to the highest environmental standards complying with all local, national and international laws and regulations.”
Eldorado is a gold producing, exploration and development company active in Turkey, China, Brazil, Greece and Romania.
— With files from The Canadian Press