Photo: Greg McNevin

‘Like looking into hell’ – the Greek coal mine that’s swallowing a village

The people of Anargyroi, Greece have voted to abandon their homes after a landslide left their village teetering on the brink of a giant open-cast coal mine.

Campaigners from across Europe visited the village last week to see first-hand the impact that lignite mining has had on the local people and landscape in Western Macedonia.

Also known as ‘brown coal’, lignite is the most polluting major fossil fuel still burnt in Europe.

Anargyroi sits on the edge of the Amyntaio coal mine. The mining company carved a 5km-long canyon out of the landscape to the east of the village to feed a string of power plants in area.

The village’s population has plummeted since a landslide left streets damaged and homes no longer safe to live in.

Many residents had lived in fear for years and complained to authorities of hearing noises under their homes as the earth shifted.

In summer 2017, 182 people had to be evacuated after an enormous landslide cut off a road to the village and left streets and homes ‘split in two’.

3/ once a village of 500 people, they need a #justtransition for all in #westernmacedonia after a landslide from a mine caused devastation

Villagers have since been offered alternative accommodation in a nearby city, but those that have already moved have been forced to leave their rural lives behind and abandon homes the homes they grew up in.

Some residents are angry that their concerns were ignored – many had reported hearing the tremors below their homes in the years before the landslide.

The future for the people of Anargyroi is still unclear, but there is hope that support from local government and the European Union could help ensure a “just transition” for local people.

Visitors to the area described the mine as “like looking into hell”. Photographer Greg McNevin captured some images for Europe Beyond Coal.

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