Local officials contemplating Russian request for Vevi mine

Russia’s interest to operate Greece’s Vevi lignite mine close to Florina, northern Greece, as an alternative to offset a stalled plan for the construction of two hydropower stations by Russian companies in Sykia and Pefkofyto, alongside the Achelous River in the northwest, adds a new dimension to a long-running ordeal over the mine’s future.

The request was extended by Russian officials to Greece’s energy minister Panos Skourletis during his visit to Moscow earlier this week as a result of legal complexities concerning the Sykia and Pefkofyto hydropower stations.

Construction of the two hydropower stations by Russian companies had been incorporated into a natural gas supply deal between Greece and Gazprom.

Russian interest in the Vevi mine had also been discussed at a recent Greek-Russian meeting in Athens focused on energy matters. In response, the Greek government said it would form a working group to examine the prospect and decide whether interests in the Vevi mine could be transferred to Russia.

Alluding to the issue, the Greek ministry released a statement yesterday noting that “talks between the two sides on energy matters will continue through the work of joint committee formed recently to also examine pending issues.

Russian officials want to operate the Vevi lignite mine and supply the main power utility PPC’s modern Meliti power station. Thoughts for construction of a new station in the area have not been excluded.

If the plan is to be developed, the mine’s operating rights would be transfered to a consortium of Russian interests, in which Prometheus Gas, a joint Greek-Russian venture operated by the Copelouzos Group and Gazprom Export, would play a leading role. The consortium had been awarded contracts to construct the now-stalled power stations in Sykia and Pefkofyto.

Exactly one year ago, Aktor, a company whose portfolio includes mining, quarrying, construction, photovoltaics, facility and project management activities, emerged as the winning bidder of a tender for the Vevi mine and signed a 15-year leasing deal offering it mining and exploitation rights. However, the agreement was never ratified in Greek Parliament as a result of the snap elections that followed soon after, last January, to bring the Syriza-led coalition into power.

A tender for the Vevi mine was originally launched back in 2006 but was later canceled and relaunched with revised terms.

The Vevi mine, located close to Greece’s northern border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom), in an area plagued by high unemployment, is estimated to carry a lignite deposit of 90 million tons. It is one of two sources supplying the region’s Melitis power station.