Building Opportunity: Growing Gold Mining in Greece

The European Union is one of the world’s largest consumers of minerals and metals. Despite owning a sizable chunk of the world’s natural resources, nearly 60% of the bulk metals used in the EU are currently imported.  In terms of gold, the EU accounted for only 1.2% of the world’s gold production in 2012. Canadian miner, Eldorado Gold, is working to grow this percentage.

A Greek Mining Renaissance

Eldorado is at the forefront of building a leading gold mining jurisdiction in northern Greece. The Skouries and Olympias assets Eldorado is developing are estimated to produce a combined 310,000 ounces of gold per year and would help make Greece the largest gold producer in the EU. “We see huge potential to build long-term opportunities,” says Eduardo Moura, Eldorado’s Vice President and General Manager of Greece. “We are creating jobs, improving local infrastructure, paying taxes and generating export revenues.”
Eldorado’s Greek assets lie in the Western Tethyan Belt, a prospective belt of rocks in Eastern Europe often described as “overlooked”, “under-explored” and “highly prospective”. Together, the Skouries and Olympias deposits hold a reserve base of 8 million ounces of gold.

Committed to Mining Done Right

Greece has a rich history of mining but has not yet benefited from modern gold extraction. Pioneering modern mining techniques in a largely service-oriented economy is not without its challenges. “Changing hearts and minds takes time, patience and a lot of dialogue. All eyes are on us to demonstrate that mining can be done responsibly, with utmost care for the safety and security of our people, our neighbours and the environment” says Paul Wright, Chief Executive Officer of Eldorado Gold. “It takes years to build a mine but it takes decades to build a company with integrity”.

Eldorado’s Chief Operating Officer, Paul Skayman echoes this sentiment. “It is so important for us to get these projects done right or we won’t be working in Greece, or anywhere else for that matter, for long”.  This commitment to excellence in terms of employing industry best-practices, strictly adhering to safety and environmental regulations and maintaining systems to identify, manage, audit and remedy potential impacts from project inception to closure is Eldorado’s approach globally.

Olympias and Skouries: Unique Developments

At Olympias and Skouries, significant resources have gone into designing the projects to reduce surface impacts as much as possible. Olympias, a pre-existing underground mine that produced silver, lead, zinc and gold, is being developed in three phases. The first phase is a rehabilitation project where Eldorado is cleaning up previously-mined tailings from an area equivalent to 35 football pitches. When complete at the end of 2015, Eldorado will replant the area with native vegetation grown at the Olympias nursery, one of the largest in northern Greece.

The second phase will include reactivation of the mine at an initial run rate of up to 650,000 tonnes of ore per year. Projected to begin in 2016, ore will be processed through the existing, refurbished mill using a flotation process to produce three concentrates: lead-silver, zinc and gold-bearing phyrite-arsenopyrite.

The third stage, from 2020, will see the development of a new plant facility located in the adjacent Stratoni valley, where Eldorado currently operates a silver-lead-zinc mine. Eldorado is also developing an 8 km tunnel to connect the new plant location via the underground mine. With 1.6 km already complete, the tunnel will eliminate hauling traffic on local roads. Additionally, all of the current surface infrastructure at the Olympias mine site will be removed, including the dismantling of the current processing plant. The Olympias valley will be fully reclaimed and restored to its original, vegetative state.

Approximately 10 km from Olympias, the Skouries project has also been designed to minimise surface impacts. To occupy the least possible surface area, a combination of open pit and underground mining methods were chosen. Tailings will be re-used as paste backfill in the underground and material from the open pit will be used to construct dam walls. Rehabilitation will parallel mining activities so when areas are no longer needed for mining use they will be returned to a natural state. “Skouries is a very unique project in that there are no waste areas” says Skayman. “We’ve put an immense amount of effort into building an operation that’s as low impact as possible”.

When in full production, Eldorado estimates its Greek operations will create approximately 5,000 direct and indirect jobs, over €750 million in direct taxes and contribute more than €500-700 million per year (depending on metal prices) in export revenues.

Louise Burgess
Communications Manager
Eldorado Gold Corporation

Pictures:
Olympias Plant Nursery – One of the largest in Northern Greece
SAG Mill Installation at Skouries – October 2014
Eldorado’s Assets in the Halkidiki Region of Greece