S&Bs plant and port facility on Milos Island,
where it exploits bentonite and perlite.
Greece continues to maintain leading positions worldwide in the
production and export of magnesite, bentonite, perlite, pumice
and huntite. Investments in equipment of high productivity and
low energy consumption for the production of products of high
value and better properties are prerequisites for further
development of the mining companies in the future.
The development of the mining and
metallurgical industry in Greece has a strong comparative
advantage over other EU countries and this should be used with
obvious benefits for the national economy.
At the beginning of the
21st century the expectations of the Greek mining
industry appear positive. Most privatisations have proved
successful, the restructuring of the sector has yielded good
results so far, and the stock market offers the possibility of
funding for development programmes aimed at the production of
new products and the reduction of operating costs.
However, most of the mining
companies need to establish or expand their strategic alliances
with international businesses in technological know-how and
There is no doubt that the mining
industry in Greece has significant strengths. But it must
identify and explore the trends and opportunities of the
international business environment if it wants to remain
competitive and to further improve its position and
Impact of the financial crisis
The recent economic crisis in Greece has impacted the mining
industry. Over the last three years, Greece has been absent
from the investment list of the international firm Behre &
Dolbear, specialising in investments in the mining sector,
owing to the negative investment climate.
One of the necessary conditions for
the immediate change of this negative climate is the creation
of a stable tax system, with emphasis on the reduction of tax
rates, elimination of bureaucracy, modernisation of
legislation, limitation of the conditions and the significant
reduction of the licensing time, and the substantial
improvements in telecommunications, energy and transport.
Also, Greece must soon incorporate
in its law the new European policy for raw materials (the Raw
Materials Initiative), reduce the projects and activities which
require environmental permits, reduce the licensing time in the
EU average (currently it is up to five times) and remove the
premeditation of environmental impact.
According to the PERC code (Pan-European Reserves and Resources
Reporting Committee), the indicated reserves of the mineral
resources of Greece currently exploited, and those resources
presenting good prospects for exploitation, with their value
are shown in Table 1.
Microcrystalline calcium carbonate,
carbonate aggregates, decorative stones of carbonate
composition, schists, and muds and clays for ceramics exist in
abundant reserves and are not included.
Figure 1 shows the locations of the
most important mineral resources of Greece.
The total value of these reserves,
in our assessment is about 1.5 trillion and is four times
the countrys total debt (360bn). Therefore, in just
20 years the revenue from exploitation of these resources could
recoup that debt. Our conclusion is reinforced by the fact that
the value of a processed mineral resource in many cases exceeds
20 times that of the raw grade.
Thus, vertically integrated mining
and processing plants, which have the ability to produce
finished products with high added value, will contribute much
more quickly to the elimination of this debt and therefore to
the rapid development of the National Economy.
The output of the last five years
of raw and processed minerals, rocks and metallic ores are
shown in Table 2 and the value of their exports in Table 3. The
percentage contribution of these commodities in the exports of
2009 is shown in Figure 2.
The gross production value of carbonate gravel and sand is more
than 300m pa, with an average annual increase of 6% by
2009. The number of active and idle quarries is 222. The
percentage contribution of this sector in mining activity is
In recent years, several rocks
suitable for producing high quality hard aggregates for
non-slip roads have been exploited. Such rocks are mainly
andesites, diabases and gabbros. The main quarries are in
Limnos, Polykastro, Yannitsa, and Mikroklissoura Grevena. The
annual production of hard aggregates is limited although the
demand is great.
There are 45 companies producing
building materials, 3 cement companies, 80 concrete companies,
and 43 companies of cement products. A mining quarry and a
melting plant of amphibolites, and other rocks, to produce
rockwool, has operated since 2001 in Terpni Serres.
Prices range from 4/t
carbonate aggregate to 10/t hard aggregate.
Large reserves of high quality attapulgite are south-east of
Grevena, in the Ventzia basin. The attapulgite is accompanied
by saponite. The two minerals have excellent absorbent and
thixotropic properties. Geohellas Co. SA exploits the deposits,
and produced 30,000 tonnes in 2010.
Exploitable deposits of bauxites exist in the regions of
Parnassos, Gkiona, Elikona, Iti, Kallidromo, Lokrida and
Domokos. Occurrences of bauxites exist at Vrontero Florina,
Petralona Chalkidiki, Western Pilio, Volos, Skopelos, East
Othrys, Evia, Elefsina, Nafpaktos, Kaiafas Ilia, Pylos
Messinia, Amorgos, Chios.
These are brown-red, because of the
contained iron oxides. But there are white colored bauxites,
which are rich in aluminium and poor in iron. The mineralogical
composition of bauxites of the Parnassos-Gkiona zone is: 10-30%
boehmite, 20-50% diaspore, 20-25% haematite, 1-5% calcite, 1-2%
quartz, 1-5% kaolinite and 0.5-2% anatase.
S&B Industrial Minerals Co. SA
produces about 1m. tpa. Delfi-Distomon Co. SA (a subsidiary of
Aluminium SA) follows with about 750,000 tpa, dedicated
exclusively to the parent feedstock. Elmin Co. SA presents a
good perspective of increasing production and exports of its
bauxites exploited. Its total production of bauxite in 2010 was
ASA is the largest consumer of
Greek bauxite, processing 1.5m tpa and producing 135,000 tpa of
aluminium, much of which is exported.
Greece is the second country after the USA in production of
bentonite, which in 2009 was 1.25m tonnes. Extraction is
conducted mainly in Milos by S&B and in smaller volumes in
Kimolos by Bentomine Kimolos Enterprises Co. SA.
The Milos bentonite contains mainly
Ca-montmorillonite (>80%), quartz, feldspars, kaolinite and
unaltered volcanic glass. Bentonite deposits have been found in
the islands of Lesvos and Chios, and in the region of
S&B ranks first in the
production of bentonite in Europe and is the largest exporter
of bentonite in the world. For most applications S&Bs
bentonite is activated by treatment with soda ash, to obtain
the desired physico-chemical properties.
With annual sales of bentonite
exceeding 850,000 tonnes, S&B exports most output (98%) to
Europe, North America, and the CIS.
The bentonite price depends on the
degree of processing, the grain size and the packaging.
White friable microcrystalline limestones are found in
Zakynthos (Kounafas and Marina) and Kefalonia (Minies), which
are the main production centres of white carbonate
These limestones, dolomitic and
calcitic marbles, and huntite, are the raw materials used in
the production of carbonate fillers in Greece. The main
producers are: Ionian Kalk SA, Zafranas-Petrochem Co. SA, and
Dionyssos-Penteli Marbles SA.
Ionian Kalk Co. SA operates a mine
and processing plant in Argostoli Kefalonia. The raw material
is a microcrystalline, very pure limestone with a composition:
>99.6% CaCO3, <0.07%
Al2O3, <0.02% SiO2 and
The average production of ground
material is 150,000 tpa, 65% of which is exported. Because of
the high purity of the final products they are used as fillers
of high brightness (>96%), low abrasion and low
From 2004, in Sindos, Thessaloniki,
Ionian Kalk of Northern Greece SA, has operated as a joint
venture with Omya AG. The company has established a production
unit of hydrophilic and hydrophobic products from crystalline
calcium carbonate, with a capacity of 150,000 tpa.
Zafranas-Petrochem Co. SA operates
its plant in Corinth. Microcrystalline white limestone from
Zakynthos and tailings of dolomitic marble from Thassos and
Drama, and imported talc, are the raw materials it uses. The
average annual production of the plant is 100,000 tpa, 50% of
which is exported.
Dionyssos-Penteli Marbles Co. SA
uses tailings of marble and limestone to produce fillers.
Marble filler is produced as a by-product of the main activity
of the company, which is the exploitation of white marbles.
The quarry is located in Dionyssos
Attica. The calcitic marble is composed of 98% calcite, 0.5%
quartz, 0.5% sericite and 1% clay minerals.
The second product is from
microcrystalline, soft limestone, from a quarry in Zakynthos.
The average annual production of fillers is about 40,000 tpa.
Some 300,000 tpa of calcium carbonate is produced for
construction and other industrial applications. Since 1999 the
company has produced dry mortars.
Huntite exists in lacustrine formations of the Kozani basin.
The concentrations of huntite-hydromagnesite prevail in the
south-east part of the basin, where Mesozoic dolomitic
limestones and dolomites are the host.
Until 2009 (when
huntite/hydromagnesite was exploited by Minelco in Turkey), the
huntite of Kozani (Neraida-Lefkara) was the only commercially
developed deposit in the world. The deposit consists of: 95%
(huntite+hydromagnesite) in relation 1:1 and 5%
Production of huntite is from two
mines by White Minerals Co. SA (majority owned by Ankerpoort, a
subsidiary of the Sibelco Group). At its plant near Lefkara
Kozani, the company processes the extracted material from the
nearby mine and produces a final product, most of which is
exported. Only a domestic paper industry uses small quantities
of this product as filler.
The exported material is a mixture
of huntite-hydromagnesite in percentages 60% and 40%,
respectively. The entire production of crude and 80% of the
processed huntite is exported. Production in 2010 was 16,350
tonnes, and prices ranged from 40/t (raw) to 300/t
Pure or marly limestones exist throughout the country. Sound
limestones are used for the production of building or
decoration stones, while the folded or fragmented stones are
used to produce aggregates or other products.
Travertines are hard,
fine-crystalline, solid or massive, often concretional, white
to brown in color, and used as decorative stones.
Very pure dolomites, with >20%
MgO, are abundant in Greece. Although their reserves in most
cases are suitable for a wide range
of applications, including production of caustic calcined
magnesia and refractories,
the availability of high quality magnesite prevents the use of
dolomite in such applications. Sound dolomites are used as
White, fine-crystalline and
homogeneous calcitic marbles, such as those of Penteli and
Paros, are very rare. Their excellent appearance is due to
their transparency and their ability to reflect light.
But hundreds of quarries that
produce inferior quality marbles operate in Greece. The marble
industry, including other natural decorative stones, continues
to be one of the most productive sectors of the Greek economy.
Today, the marble industry includes about 3,000 companies
(mining, processing, and trade). About 60% of total production
and activity is in Macedonia. The most important centres of
white marbles are found in the prefectures of Drama and Kavala
(including Thassos, which is world famous for the snow-white
dolomites). Today, the operating marble quarries are more than
Rocks rich in feldspars exist in Evros (Korymvos,
Protokklissia, Samothrace), Drama (Paranesti), Thessaloniki
(Karteres) and Chalkidiki (Platanochori, Arnea, Ierissos,
Sithonia). Usually they are intersected pegmatitic veins of
great thickness and length. Among all the feldspars of the
rocks above the feldspars of Paranesti are richer in potassium
(K2O up to 6%).
The most common form of feldspar in
Greece is Na-feldspar, while K-feldspar is very rare. Turkey is
the largest competitor of Greece in the supply of feldspars in
The requirement of the Greek
ceramic industries for feldspar is about 40,000 tpa. The
production (about 23,000 tpa) partially covers the needs of
domestic industries of sanitaryware and glassware.
Mevior Co. SA (majority owned by
Ankerpoort) extracts pegmatites rich in Na-feldspars in the
area of Karteres Thessaloniki. The processing plant operates in
Assiros Thessaloniki. Some 50% of production is exported to
Italy, Germany, and the Czech Republic, while the rest supplies
domestic industries such as:
- Youla Co.
SA: the largest glass company in the region with headquarters
and plant in Egaleo Attica, consumes approximately 1,200 tpa of
fine-grained material (75μm) for glass tableware.
Co. SA: with headquarters in Egaleo Attica and plant in Ionia
Thessaloniki, consumes about 1,200 tpa of similar material for
tiles and sanitaryware.
Filceram Johnson Co. SA extracted
feldspars in the area of Platanochori Chalkidiki and consumes
about 30,000 tpa of coarse-grained material (0-6 mm) for floor
and wall tiles. The company suspended operations at the end of
Greece hosts large and high quality gypsum and anhydrite
deposits, and in locations accessible for quarrying. Therefore,
gypsum may be considered as an investment target of low risk.
Triassic gypsum deposits aged up to the Quaternary are in the
Ionian Islands, Thesprotia, Preveza, Etoloakarnania, Karditsa,
Ilia, Crete, and Rhodes.
Tertiary deposits in marly
formations are in Ano Viannos Crete, Karpathos, Katouna
Etoloakarnania, and in Gouvalia Islet in Amvrakikos Gulf. Also,
Tertiary gypsum is found in meta-alpine formations of western
Greece, Ionian Islands, Crete, and Kariani Kavala. The gypsum
occurrences at Sousaki and Lavrio are exceptions associated
with hydrothermal activity and alteration phenomena.
Gypsum is mainly mined in eastern
Crete (Altsi Sitia) and Katouna Etoloakarnania. Small
excavations take place periodically in western Crete, Skopos
Zakynthos, and Etoliko and Amphilochia Etoloakarnania.
The extracted material of the Altsi
deposit is 80-90% gypsum, while its gangue materials are
constituted by SiO2, Fe2O3,
Al2O3, and carbonate minerals of Ca and
Mg. The area of Altsi is exploited for gypsum by Lava Co. SA
(Lafarge Group), Interbeton Building Materials Co. SA (Titan
Group), and Zervakis Co. SA.
The Katouna deposit, consisting of
grey to white-grey gypsum of 80-93% purity is mined by Knauf
Co. SA, and Viogyps Karvelis Co. SA.
Production of gypsum in Greece
depends heavily on the cement industry. Demand for gypsum for
construction applications in recent years has continually
decreased owing to the economic crisis. Total production in
2010 was 470,000 tonnes, down by 50% compared with 2007.
Kaolin occurs in the islands of Lesvos, Kimolos, Kos, and
Thira, and in Sapes Rhodope and Griva Kilkis. But kaolin is
periodically mined only in Milos and Lefkogia Drama. The two
deposits are different in origin.
The Milos kaolin was formed by
hydrothermal alteration of volcaniclastic rocks under acidic
conditions and contains 13-20% Al2O3 and
0.3-0.6% Fe2O3. The low quality of the
Milos kaolin is mainly due to the presence of opal silica and
alunite (sulphureous mineral).
The Lefkogia kaolin is of residual
type and is formed from the weathering of gneisses and schist
gneisses. Besides the main mineral kaolinite there are: quartz,
feldspars, and micas, and contains 18%
Al2O3 and 2.5%
The mineralogical and chemical
characteristics of both types of kaolin make them unsuitable
for high quality coatings and fillers. In Milos, S&B and
Interbeton Industrial Materials (subsidiary of Titan) operate.
The largest percentage (80%) of Milos production is
consumed in raw form in the domestic cement industry, while a
small proportion (10%) is exported for the production of white
The entire production of Lefkogia
is domestically consumed by Filceram Johnson Co for floor and
wall tiles. The domestic industrial needs for high quality
kaolin are met by imports.
Since 1995 the production of kaolin
has dropped dramatically, mainly because of a lack of good
quality deposits. Muds and clays for ceramics and pottery exist
in abundant reserves throughout Greece.
Greek magnesite ores are of vein or sedimentary type. The
former are exclusively associated with ophiolites and they have
been developed in serpentinites, frequently schisted, where
magnesite zones are very thick and several kilometers long.
The major vein type magnesite ores
(stockwork) are in Chalkidiki (Vasilika, Vavdos, Polygyros,
Yerakini, Ormylia) and are the only deposits under
exploitation. Similar ores exist at North Evia (Mantoudi,
Limni, Troupi, Petissounas, Afrati, Pappades). Also,
occurrences of magnesite are in Gomati and Nea Roda Chalkidiki,
Nigrita, Kozani, Grevena, Atalanti, Ermioni, Lesvos.
The sedimentary ores of magnesite
in Greece, which are not exploited, are located in the
Serbia-Eani basin and Varvara and Karkara Chalkidiki hosted in
The magnesite of Chalkidiki is high
quality and contains 46.7% MgO, 1.9% SiO2, 0.5% CaO
Grecian Magnesite Co. SA, is the
largest exporter of magnesia in the EU. Most reserves, along
with the processing unit, are located in Yerakini, Chalkidiki.
The company exports magnesite, caustic and dead burned
magnesia, and refractory masses.
Production of magnesite is 400,000
tpa and 180,000 tpa of final products (caustic and dead burned
magnesia, refractory masses); 93% of output is exported mainly
to the EU, but also to the USA, other European countries, the
Middle East, and Australia.
In Greece, olivine is present in various percentages in
ophiolite formations or complexes that include dunites,
olivinites, and peridotites. High quality deposits of olivines
have been found in Vavdos Chalkidiki, Livadi Thessaloniki,
Vourinos Kozani, and Perivoli Grevena.
Mining of olivine takes place in
Skoumtsa Grevena (Mount Vourinos) by Thermolith Co. SA (until
2010 operated as Macedonian Olivinites Ltd.). Production in
2010 was 30,000 tonnes, a year in which the company entered the
market with a new series of finished products. The future
exploitation of the dunite deposits of Vavdos Chalkidiki seems
Greece is first in exports and second in production of perlite
in the world. Most of the extracted perlite is processed
(crushing, sizing, drying) and 50% of that is exported. Only a
small portion of the sized perlite in its expanded form is
Greece is the main supplier to
Europe with competing countries including Turkey, Italy,
Hungary and Armenia. Also perlite is exported to the USA, the
Middle and the Far East.
Perlite is extracted on the islands
of Milos and Kos. Occurrences of perlite are also found in the
islands of Lesvos, Gyali and Antiparos and in Evros Prefecture
(Lefkimmi, Lykofos, Dadia).
Perlite is mined primarily in
Milos, where the indicated reserves are 1bn tonnes.
S&B is the largest producer of
perlite in Greece and the largest supplier of raw and graded
perlite in the world. Aegean Perlites Co. SA is a smaller
producer in the Islet Gyali.
S&B Co., apart from on Milos,
periodically extracts small volumes and in Kos. The largest
percentage of mined perlite is transferred to its plant in
Ritsona Viotia, where expanded perlite is produced. This is
distributed in the international and domestic markets by
subsidiary company Isocon.
S&B and acquired companies
Sarda Perlite (Italy), Saba Madencilik (Turkey) and
Sino-Hellenic Industrial Minerals (China), distribute more than
600,000 tpa of graded perlite products in international
markets, mainly in Europe and North America. Subsidiary Otavi
Holding GmbH, produced 130,000 tpa of raw perlite in Milos.
Sales of perlite in the domestic market are only 1.5% of the
Perlite demand is expected to
increase, owing to the consumption of perlite in new
applications, such as in agriculture, in filter manufacturing,
and in cryogenic applications.
In 2010, production of crude
perlite was 760,000 tonnes, while that of processed was 480,000
tonnes. About 45% of total production was exported to the
European market and 44% to North America.
The building industry (eg. building
materials and coatings) consumes 58%, agricultural uses (eg.
hydroponics and floriculture production mixes) 28%, and other
uses (eg. filtration and cryogenic insulation) the remaining
Pumice is one of the most important industrial raw materials of
Greece. Domestic production of pumice in 2010 was 413,000
tonnes, a decrease by about 50% compared with 2007. The Lava
Co. SA operates the only mine in the Gyali Islet in Eastern
Aegean and has been the leading exporter of pumice in the
Pozzolan deposits are in Evros
prefecture (Mesti, Lefkimmi, Dadia, Petrota). Pozzolan is mined
in the islands of Milos and Kimolos and in Pella Prefecture
(Nea Zoi, Profitis Elias, Apsalos, Xifiani).
Production of pozzolan in Greece
during 2000-2009 was 1.0-1.5m tpa, but in 2010 production fell
to 540,000 tonnes, the lowest of recent years.
Almost all pozzolan is consumed by
the cement industry. Five companies are involved: Lava Co. SA
(Lafarge Group), Interbeton Building Materials Co. SA (Titan
Group), Bentomine Kimolos Enterprises Co. SA, Kyvos Co. SA, and
Hellenic Pozzolanes Co. SA.
The cement industry Titan is
supplied by all the production of the companies extracting
pozzolanic earth in Pella Prefecture:
- Kyvos Co.
SA with two mines: Profitis Elias Pella producing 70,000 tpa of
grey pozzolan, containing 30-40% amorphous SiO2.
Aridea producing 4,000-5,000 tpa of white-grey pozzolan,
containing 40-50% amorphous SiO2.
Pozzolanes Co. SA with two mines in Apsalos Aridea producing
8,000-10,000 tpa of white pozzolan, containing 50-55% amorphous
Abundant quartz sands of terrestrial or fluvial origin for
building use exist in many regions of Greece. Sand mines with
or without permits operate in riverside areas of almost all of
the rivers. Quartz sand of 1.2m tonnes has been found in
Skalochori Kozani, which after processing gave 94-96%
SiO2 and 0.04-0.08% Fe.
Also, small deposits of quartz sand
have been found in Argos Orestiko Kastoria, and of quartz
pebbles of 400,000 tonnes in Achlada Florina.
Quartz sand of terrestrial or
fluvial origin of high quality has not been found so far in
Greece, and for this reason it is imported.
A large number of quartz veins,
usually of small dimension, intercept the crystalline schist
rocks of the Rhodope, Serbomacedonian, Pelagonian and
Attiko-cyclatic Zones. Moreover, flint has been identified in
Doriskos Evros and porcelanites in Aridea and Kozani. The
quartz of Roussa Evros is of very good quality, but it has not
The milky quartz of vein origin
partially covers the needs of the Greek ceramic industries. The
reserves under exploitation are found in the Prefectures of
Thessaloniki (Examili), Kilkis, Chalkidiki and Larissa, and
have started the necessary procedures for the exploitation of
new valuable deposits in the Prefectures of Trikala, Kozani,
Production of quartz is about
15,000 tpa. The annual requirement for quartz in the Greek
ceramic and glass industries is about 80,000 tonnes.
The only company producing quartz
is Mevior SA, whose processing unit operates in Assiros,
Thessaloniki. Of the total production around 20% is exported.
The rest is consumed by domestic ceramic and glass industries,
for the production of sanitaryware and porcelain, and glass
products (eg. Vitruvit, Ionia Porcelain, Youla, with about
1,500 tpa each).
A second feature on Greek
mineral prospects for exploration and exploitation will follow
in IM February 2012.
The authors wish to thank the Mining Enterprises Association of
Greece and the colleagues who provided information in compiling
this article and the graduate student Evangelos Tzamos for the
drawing of the map with the mineral resources of Greece.
References available on request.
Contributors: Professors Ananias Tsirambides and
Anestis Filippidis of Dept. Mineralogy-Petrology-Economic
Geology, School of Geology, Aristotle University of
Thessaloniki; email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org