Canada’s Eldorado Gold (TSX:ELD)(NYSE:EGO) said on Thursday that Greek authorities had approved a modification to the Kassandra Mines Environmental Impact Assessment (“EIA”) to allow for the use of dry stack tailings disposal at its Skouries gold-copper project.
The Ministry of Energy and Environment’s permit comes only six weeks after Greek lawmakers approved a revised contract covering the miner’s operations in the north of the country.
“Receipt of this approval is a major milestone for the Skouries project (…) one of the key items required to restart construction,” president and CEO George Burns said in the statement.
Dry stack technology involves filtering tailings to remove water prior to stacking and compacting the dry material in a designated tailings area.
Using that kind of tailings disposal provides several benefits to the Skouries project, Eldorado said, including the fact that dry material is easy to stack and compact, which will reduce the environmental footprint of the facility by 50%.
The Vancouver-based gold producer noted the high solids content of the dry-stack material, which has a consistency similar to damp sand, significantly improves the tailings facility’s safety and stability, particularly during extreme weather events.
The miner will also recycle the water removed from its tailings, which reduces the need to extract water from local sources.
The Skouries gold-copper mine, which is partially built, is expected to operate for about 23 years based on current reserves. Initially, it would be an open pit and underground mine, but it will move later to underground mining only.
Eldorado Gold said it continues to other projects at the Kassandra Mines, which includes the nearby Olympias and the Stratoni/Mavres Petres mines.
The company’s projects in northern Greece have repeatedly stalled over licensing hold ups and environmental concerns. In 2017, the miner halted all operations in the country due to government delays in issuing permits for Skouries and Olympias, two of the company’s key assets.
While Eldorado received necessary permits for Olympias and resumed activities at that asset shortly after, Skouries has remained on care and maintenance. Progress at its projects has in the past been hindered by community opposition revolving around the possible environmental impacts of gold mining in a densely forested area.
The company has submitted revised proposals since, focusing on the use of best-available techniques (BAT) at the European Union level, as well as global best practices, such as dry-stack tailings.
The country’s government has responded by granting the miner some key permits.
Greece and Eldorado, the country’s biggest foreign investor, negotiated a new investment contract that was signed and ratified by Greek Parliament earlier this year. The investment agreement provides enhanced fiscal revenues, environmental benefits, and support for local communities in the form of job creation and local projects.
The nation’s conservative government has vowed to attract foreign investment to boost an economy that shrank by a quarter during a decade-long financial crisis.