S&B’s Sustainable case of mining & tourism in Milos island, Greece

As part of the Greek island complex of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, Milos was the “result” of volcanic eruptions on land and beneath the sea, an activity which continued for hundreds of thousands of years. The volcanic “heritage” of Milos consists of a broad range of minerals & rocks, such as obsidian, pumice, sulfur, alunite, kaolin, perlite, bentonite, manganese etc. As opposed to other Greek islands, Milos’ comparative advantage lays exactly on its geologic heritage and the wealth created from the various mining activities throughout the centuries.

Modern Milos local economy is based on mining and tourism, activities that go hand-in-hand for the benefit of the community that enjoys this fruitful and sustainable symbiosis.

Mining is a year-round economic activity, whereby tourism is a seasonal activity. Services (incl. tourism) account for 55% of Milos’ domestic product, while manufacturing (most of it mining) stands for 40%, a major contributor to Milos’ local economy. Due to both pillars’ strength (mining & tourism), there is literally no unemployment on the island (while in Greece currently unemployment is ca. 27%). As a result, local population is kept in place around the year, since mining, unlike tourism, is not a seasonal activity. Moreover, the island’s GDP per capita is higher than the country’s average, as a result of the harmonious co-existence of both economic activities. Mining and tourism therefore are both activities that can go hand-in-hand for the benefit of local economies. On the mining sector, 1.5 mio MTs of industrial minerals are loaded annually from the island (bentonite, perlite, pozzolana) with more than 80% exported overseas. On the tourism sector, visitors are estimated to be 85,000 per annum for an island of approx. 5,000 inhabitants.

S&B contributes 1/3 of the GDP of Milos directly and indirectly (Foundation for Economic & Industrial Research study est. 2011) and is the largest employer of the island, with 18% of Milos workforce  working for the company’s activities (employees plus exclusive contractors). Annual S&B Milos CAPEX is the 15% of total investments on the island (public & private), not including Social Contribution activities which reach 600,000 euros/annum in support of tourism and local communities.

Since the very early years of its 79 yearlong activity in Milos, S&B has developed a strong social profile, engaging its employees and the local community working together, with a large amount of its annual Social Contribution directed to the Milos local community. Its social contribution comprises actions and works promoting they balanced co-existence of mining & tourism, such as:

  • The Milos Mining Museum (www.milosminingmuseum.com), inaugurated in 1998, with approx. 10,000 visitors per annum, where the mining history and the minerals wealth of Milos is showcased.
  • The Milos Conference Center (www.miloscenter.gr), housed in a restored  old kaolin processing plant, built in 1925, overlooking the gulf of Milos. It is an excellent sample of its period’s industrial architecture, able to facilitate 400 conferees each time, and hosting around 5,000 visitors per year. Several conferences and seminars (some of them on mining) have been hosted, extending Milos touristic season, beyond summer every year.
  • Geo-tourism activities, with the MILOTERRANEAN GEO EXPERIENCE (www.miloterranean.gr), a project aiming to assist Milos visitors’ discovery of the island’s unique geology, wealth of mining history and present. A set of seven maps & guides with detailed routes guide the visitor through the stunning natural environment of the island combining the collective knowledge and experiences of geologists, mining engineers, foresters, cartographers and historians.
  • The establishment of the annual Summer Milos Cultural Festival (as early as 1994), hosting local traditional as well as theatrical and musical events.
  • Milos Initiative, a partnership with the Milos Municipality for the promotion of sustainable development on the island, which resulted in major infrastructure investments (like the wastewater treatment plant, etc.).
  • Local Volunteerism, as part of S&B’s Global Volunteerism Initiative, in support of causes and local needs.

Thomas Androulakis, S&B