Extensive clashes near controversial goldmine

Police detain five after locals form barricades outside town of Ierissos, while former mayor says schoolchildren affected by teargas

http://antigoldgreece.wordpress.com/ http://antigoldgreece.wordpress.com/ There have been extensive clashes between riot police and residents of a town near a controversial planned goldmine in the northern peninsula of Halkidiki.

Earlier on Thursday, a large detachment of police was deployed to the village of Ierissos in relation to a recent nighttime arson attack on the mine, which is under development. 

Clashes followed and some locals formed barricades. Five people have been detained.

On February 20, about 40 masked intruders broke into the Hellas Gold mine at nearby Skouries and torched machinery and vehicles being used to construct the open pit mine. 

Residents have reported that the police made extensive use of teargas in Ierissos, firing it in front of a school while it was in operation. 

A number of children were affected by the gas, a former mayor for the area said. Michalis Vlachopoulos also told Skai TV that one student suffered a head injury.

Appearing on the same television station, a police spokesperson denied that teargas was fired into the school and said that it was used only to remove a blockade that residents had erected at the entrance of the village to prevent riot police from entering.

He said the riot were police sent to assist colleagues who were carrying out a preliminary investigation into the arson attack.

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According to a local website, a prosecutor, six platoons of riot police and police jeeps came from Polygyros to Ierissos as part of the investigation into the arson attack.

When locals sounded the alarm by ringing bells, a crowd gathered outside the police station. Some residents then erected barricades, setting fire to rubbish bins and tires.

Seven residents from Ierissos and Megali Panayia suspected of involvement in the arson attack have been taken into custody for identification and police are now carrying out searches of their homes.

Hellas Gold, is 95%  owned by Canadian mining company Eldorado Gold Inc, which is based in Vancouver.

There has long been opposition to the prospect of the Skouries gold mine and processing plant, with some residents objecting to what they say will be the destruction of the environment and of pristine forest in the area, leading to the loss of tourism and other local activities such as farming, the rearing of livestock and fishing. 

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