Police closed Vassilisis Sofias Avenue to traffic in both directions on Thursday, between the Hilton hotel and Syntagma Square, as protesting miners marched through Athens to reach the government's headquarters at the Maximos Mansion.
As the march reached the city centre, authorities allowed normal traffic to resume on Messogion Avenue, which had earlier been closed due to the miners' protest rally and march near Katehaki Road.
The protest was carried out by workers at the Kassandra and Skouries mines in Halkidiki, who are demanding that the government protect their jobs by speeding up the issue of pending licences requested by Hellas Gold, a Greek subsidiary of the Canadian mining firm Eldorado Gold.
The miners, who have called a 48-hour strike, arrived in Athens early on Thursday morning and gathered outside the environment ministry for a protest that blocked Messogion Avenue, a key Athens thoroughfare, in both directions. They are now marching toward the Maximos Mansion near parliament and the offices of Hellas Gold in Athens.
The miners want a swift resolution of outstanding problems blocking the issue of licences for the Halkidiki mines, saying that their jobs are at stake.
"The three licences issued for the Olympias mine are not enough for the project to go ahead; it is a single project," the head of their union Christos Zafeiroudas told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA).
A meeting was arranged between a miners' delegation and the ministry Secretary General for Energy and Mineral Raw Materials Michalis Verroiopoulos. In statements afterward, Zafeiroudas expressed confidence that a solution will be found very soon and said that both sides "appear to be making a great effort to resolve our issue."
"There is an honest and sincere dialogue with the company. Unfortunately, however, time is needed to see results in practice. We must continue our struggle. Nothing is over yet," he added, noting that the goal was still a final resolution by the time an arbitration process on the issue has been completed.
Ministry sources reported a good atmosphere at the meeting, while the workers also plan to meet with the company's management.
In the meantime, an arbitration process expected to last three months began on Thursday between the Greek state and Hellas Gold, regarding the licence for a facility at the mine in Skouries, Halkidiki.
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