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Thousands of Greek miners protest feared job losses

April 16, 2015

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Workers at a northern Greek gold mine and their supporters marched through Athens on Thursday, in the most significant labor challenge the new radical left-led government has faced since its election in January.

Some 4,000 people in fluorescent green vests took part in the protest, waving flags and chanting slogans and forcing police to shut down major roads for hours.

Mine workers fear they will lose their jobs because the governing Syriza party has fought the privately-owned mine on environmental and financial grounds.

The Skouries gold mine has divided residents in the northern Greek peninsula of Halkidiki, and marches for and against the project in recent years have turned violent.

Leftist and anarchist groups gathering for an anti-mine protest in Athens later Thursday clashed with riot police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.

Residents of some villages round the mines back the Canadian-led investment, which has created about 2,000 jobs. But others bitterly oppose it, arguing it will take a heavy toll on the environment.

The government has temporarily revoked a permit for a key ore enrichment plant, and accuses the Eldorado Gold mining company of encouraging the protests.

Eldorado Gold geologist Dimitris Ballas said workers are concerned the company will be forced to cancel its investment and leave Greece if there is no progress.

Ismet Ali Chotza, deputy director of supplies, said about 6,000 of the region’s 18,000 people are dependent on the mines, including families of employees and other related businesses in the area.

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