ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece has asked Canadian miner Eldorado Gold Corp to reverse its decision to halt much of its Greek mining operations and safeguard jobs as a condition for the two parties to continue talks on the country’s biggest foreign investment.
The Vancouver-based miner has been in a dispute with the Greek government after Energy Minister Panos Skourletis in August revoked the company’s permit to further develop its Skouries mine in a forested area of northern Greece on environmental concerns.
The case is widely seen as a test of the leftist government’s approach to foreign investment.
On Monday Eldorado said it would suspend construction at the Skouries project, putting more than 600 jobs at risk. It also warned it would do the same at its Olympias mine, risking another 500 jobs in northern Greece, if it didn’t secure necessary permits by the end of March.
Skourletis met Eldorado Chief Executive Officer Paul Wright on Wednesday.
“I told him that a condition for any talks from now own is the company taking back its decision,” the minister said after the meeting.
“We can’t discuss while being blackmailed,” he said.
Eldorado went to Greece’s top administrative court to annul the government’s decision to revoke its mining permit and a majority of judges in the court ruled in its favor in November, but the official decision is still pending.
The government has also delayed several other licenses Eldorado needs to develop its projects on the Halkidiki peninsula.
Greece needs investment to spur its economy but the leftist government has shown a reticence to allow foreign ownership of big projects.
Eldorado has created around 2,000 direct and indirect jobs in Greece, which suffers from a jobless rate of 25 percent, the highest in the euro zone.
The Canadian company has spent more than $700 million since 2012 when it took over the project on the Halkidiki peninsula and planned to invest another $1 billion in its quest for gold, copper and zinc at the Olympias and Skouries sites.
Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Susan Fenton