Red Mine Waste Fouls Pristine Greek Bay

IERISSOS, Greece, December 16, 2002 (ENS) – Deep red mine wastes from a lead and zinc mine owned by a subsidiary of the Toronto based TVX Gold, Inc., are discoloring the Bay of Ierissos in northeastern Greece. More than half a mile of the bay, known for its large sandy beaches, clear waters, and abundant fishing, is now streaked with pollution.

On December 6, the Greek Supreme Court ordered TVX to close down the mine beneath Stratoniki because TVX’s environmental assessments were found inadequate to ensure the safety of the village and its 800 people. The mine still continues to operate.

spill

Red mine wastes contaminate the Bay of Ierissos. (Photo courtesy Mineral Policy Center)
Local villagers and fishermen have observed the red wastes entering the bay since December 7.

Tolis Papageorgiou, a local civil engineer, says, “Commercial fishing could be seriously affected by this spill, because of the risk of heavy metal contamination. The bay of Ierissos is one of the major fisheries of Greece.”

The wastes flowing into the bay of Ierissos are likely to contain traces of lead, zinc, silver, and other toxic metals, as well as cyanide and other chemicals which are used to process metals from TVX’s mine.

Maria Kadoglou of Hellenic Mining Watch says the Stratoniki citizens contacted her group asking for assistance to stop the mining.

She says that when the authorities do force the mine to close, the surrounding environment needs ongoing protection. “We urge the authorities to protect residents and the bay from the polluting impacts of this mine during its closure," she said. "TVX must be held accountable for the environmental damage caused by the mine.”

Local rock has high sulfide content, which can drain acid for centuries after the mine is closed. Acid mine drainage already poses risks to the local community and water supplies.

Mining activity has already caused the land surface to collapse in several places, cracking houses and the village church. Because the area is underlain by active geologic faults, such mining has the potential for harm to property and human lives, Hellenic Mining Watch says.

For the past two years, TVX has been mining the Mavres Petres mine immediately under the village of Stratoniki. Despite the unanimous opposition of the local people and their officials, in February the Greek government issued a permit to TVX Hellas allowing for the continuation of mining activities at the Mavres Petres mine, which is part of TVX’s Stratoni zinc lead silver operations.

Public demonstrations against the mine by the citizens have been violently quelled by an outside police force sent in by the central government. Numerous local citizens have been arrested and charged with offenses in an attempt to prevent further demonstrations and to allow mining to proceed, says Hellenic Mining Watch.

The company, which has not responded publicly to the waste discharge, says its February permit for TVX Hellas was issued following an independent study conducted by six Greek professors from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) on behalf of the Ministry of Development, an extensive review by relevant government departments and positive local community information meetings. The NTUA committee’s findings confirmed that the proposed mining method is both safe and appropriate for the Mavres Petres orebody, the company says.

Goverment authorities have not made any public statement regarding the red plume of mine waste pollution, nor have they proposed any efforts to control the damage.