ATHENS: Hundreds of protesters demonstrated in Athens on Saturday against a Canadian gold mining investment in the northern region of Halkidiki that is feared to be causing irreversible damage to the local environment.
"Yes to water, no to gold," the protesters chanted as they marched on the Greek parliament. "Take your cyanide and get out," they said.
The protest was led by youths carrying felled trunks of oak and beech trees on biers, while other demonstrators wore decontamination suits.
"If you want gold, go to bank safe boxes," the protesters chanted.
A number of citizens' groups, backed by the radical leftist party Syriza that is now the second largest group in parliament, have been trying to scupper the project since 2011, when the government allowed Hellenic Gold -- a subsidiary of Canadian firm Eldorado Gold -- to dig in the area.
Another Canadian company, TVX, began an operation in Halkidiki nearly two decades ago before pulling out in 2003.
The mayor of Thessaloniki and local authorities support the new project that is expected to create hundreds of jobs, but the community remains divided.
Critics of the investment argue that the mining operation will drain and contaminate local water reserves and fill the air with dangerous substances such as lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic.
The forested Halkidiki peninsula is a major travel destination for tourists from neighbouring Balkan countries and from Russia.