Ecological Impact

The Halkidiki region is rightly regarded as one of the best kept secrets of Europe. The wide variety of ecosystems is one of the main reasons. The region contains pristine ancient forests, beaches, lakes, rivers and mountains. This makes for a very rich biodiversity with many protected plant and animal species.

Flora

The majority of the forests are beech (Asperulo Fagetum). These are unique in Europe because they have escaped both natural and human destruction over the past centuries. An important reason is the fact they had a status as ‘holy forests’ in centuries past.

The site where the ‘Hellas Gold’ project has already deforested, consisted of woodlands with 400-500 year old trees, with a height of 15 meters and a diameter of 60 centimeters. The site is located in the middle of ancient forest, and is expected that mining impacts will extend beyond the deforested areas alone. Nearby, trees older than 2000 years can be found, with a height of 35 meters.

Fauna

These unique ecosystems are characterised by a rich fauna. Around 159 bird species and more than 40 different mammals can be found. Because of the protected status of this region, prohibiting hunting in large parts of it, and the absence of other forms of disturbance from humans, this region serves as an important ecological stepping stone. Many forest species and wildlife are dependent on this kind of undisturbed areas for their reproduction and some forest species would never survive if these regions were destroyed.

Water

It’s expected that groundwater reserves will be heavily polluted by the future plans of the mine. Firstly, minerals will be separated from ‘waste’ using cyanide (although Eldorado Gold provisionally claims that an alternative method will be used), which causes ground and surface water pollution. Also a huge amount of groundwater will be pumped up (up to 480 cubic meters) when the mine is fully operational. This will lower the groundwater table (up to 663 meters under the sea level in Olympia), which will cause an influx of saltwater. That will compromise the fresh water supply of more than 40 000 inhabitants of the region.

Air

The environmental impact assessment of the company shows that the legally imposed limits of pollutants will clearly be exceeded. In Skouries alone, considerable air pollution is expected, with high concentrations of heavy metals, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and sulfur compounds. The suspended particles will contain arsenic, manganese, cadmium, antimony, zinc, mercury, etc…

Many of these elements are linked to neurological damage in both children and adults. Estimates show that the PM 10 and PM 2.5 emissions (fine particles) will ultimately be 950 tonnes per year, and that these particles will spread out over large distances. The technical report of the Skouries project makes clear that little regulation is imposed on the operation, for example in relation to these aspects of air pollution.