Athens (AFP) - Canada's Eldorado Gold on Monday warned it would suspend investment in mining operations in Greece on September 22 due to what it said were delays by the Athens government in issuing permits.
"Actions will be taken to place the Skouries and Olympias projects and the Stratoni mine on care and maintenance starting on September 22," the Vancouver-based company said in a statement.
The move came two days after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras boasted that his government has managed to attract investors.
"In 2016, direct foreign investments were the highest in the last 10 years and in 2017 further improvement is expected," Tsipras said while inaugurating the Thessaloniki International Fair.
Eldorado said that despite repeated attempts by the company and its Greek subsidiary to talk to the government, "delays continue in issuing routine permits and licences for the construction and development of the Skouries and Olympias projects in Halkidiki, northern Greece".
"Under the present conditions no additional investment will be made into the Kassandra Mines (Olympias, Skouries, Stratoni) in Halkidiki, the Perama Hill and Sapes projects in Thrace, and any exploration activity in the country," it said.
"It is extremely unfortunate to find ourselves at this impasse when we should be advancing an important commercial project in partnership with Greece and adding another 1,200 jobs to our current workforce of approximately 2,400 people in Greece", Eldorado Gold CEO George Burns told reporters in Athens.
The company said that it "would reassess its investment options in Greece upon approval and receipt of the required permits, coupled with a supportive government open to discussions".
Greek Energy Minister George Stathakis said late last month that the government would kick off an arbitration process over Eldorado Gold's mining plans in the north of the country by mid-September.
Environmentalists have said the Hellas Gold project, a subsidiary of Eldorado Gold, would cause irreversible harm, draining and contaminating local water reserves.
The goldmine on Skouries mountain has sparked years of protests, including a raid in 2013, when hooded militants threw Molotov cocktails at the mine worksite, wounding a guard and damaging equipment.
Greece's leftist government in 2015 blocked work on the goldmine over alleged contract violations.
The energy ministry had then said that the company had failed to provide an environment-friendly gold extraction plan within a three-year timeframe as promised, and had been given another year to deliver.
Junior environment minister Sokratis Famellos on Monday insisted that Eldorado Gold "has still not submitted the study, as it should have done under the contract it has signed."
While in opposition, the now-ruling Syriza party publicly opposed the investment. However, many residents support the project, as does the regional board of industry.