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Accepted Paper:

Eco-Activism and struggles against the "mines of death" at a Balkan border  


Rozita Dimova (Ghent University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper documents the activism of several eco associations in the border region to stop the construction and activities of the open-pit copper and gold mines, and the collaboration between the eco-activists from Greece and North Macedonia.

Paper long abstract:

In 2016-2017 citizens and activists of the Gevgelija-Valandovo-Dojran border region carried out a series of organized protests and referendums to stop the work of the open-pit copper and gold mines such as Kazandol, Konjsko and Ilovica. These mines were part of concessions for exploration and exploitation issued in 2013 that allowed the foreign investors from Ukraine and Canada to extract minerals by using sulfuric and cyanide acid. This paper documents the activism of several civil associations, such as SOS Valandovo and SOS Gevgelija, to protect their habitat and agricultural production. The conjunction of activism, investigative journalism and, especially, the cross-border cooperation with activists from Greece, paved the way for the 2019 termination of the contract between the government in North Macedonia and the Ukrainian mining company Sardic MC in charge of Kazandol. Similar open-pit mine for extraction of gold has been operating in the village Skouries on Chalkidiki in Greece. The protests in 2013-2014 however did not manage to stop the mining activities of the Canadian Eldorado company. The EU austerity measures, along with the pressure placed on Greece for foreign investments in the peak of the Greek financial crisis, prevented even the Tsipras' government elected in 2015 to terminate the contract -- despite Syriza's promise during the election campaign to stop the mine's activity. Regardless of the failure to close the mine, the eco-association SOS Chalkidiki set up a model for the eco-activists in North Macedonia who pursued their successful struggle against the operation of the Kazandol mine.

Panel P165
Environmental Hazards and the European Periphery