Chania, Crete – May 13 &14

Well we got into Chania today after a quick morning flight. We’re staying at the Kydon, possibly the nicest hotel so far! There’s a cruise ship in the harbour so the city is full of tourists (darn tourists). The central market square, their “agora”, is full of many opportunities to pick up interesting items and souvenirs for folks back home. The harbour here is beautiful, in fact, the whole the city is. Climbing a nearby hill we got a good look at our surroundings.

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We’ve been scheduled for a boat tour today, on Captain Nick “The Greek”‘s glass-bottom boat. People have been excited about this one for a long time now, but it appeared the world wasn’t going to cooperate when the 2 o’clock outing was canceled due to rough waters. Luckily by 5 the sea had calmed and we were back on.

The trip was a great time. We cruised through the waters to a goat-reserve island where we managed to spot one, saw an old fortress on a rocky island, and went snorkeling at another bay. Captain Nick, who may be part shark, swam out and not only retrieved a lost Go-Pro from earlier but also found and captured an octopus, all within 10 minutes.

Next day we were off to the Technical University of Crete to visit the people of the Mineral Resources Engineering department. It’s always very interesting to meet students and professors from other cultures and see how other schools teach the subject matter. We were treated to a fine tour of the school and everyone was very kind and accommodating for us. I got some pictures of their laboratory full of interesting projects.

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This is the final day together for our group so when we got to the city we got together to head out for a last supper. It’s been a fantastic time in Greece and I don’t think anyone will be forgetting about it soon. A big thank you is due to all our sponsors and everyone who has helped get us here.

Thank you to El Dorado, Orica, Copper Mountain, Goldcorp, Starcore, Motion Metrics, Minesight, Polycorp, and Klein for their generosity and support.
Thank you to all the people we’ve met here in Greece who’ve been kind enough to share their beautiful country with us.
And thank you for following us on this journey.

– Alex G

Cultural Day in Athens – May 12

Today, we explored this great city in depth. Many explored the city in small groups and at their own pace.

We walked through the streets of Plaka, which is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Athens. Walking through Plaka, you kind of feel like you are stepping back into time with really narrow streets, but at the same time there is graffiti on the walls. Then, we visited the Temple of Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch, the Ancient Agora, Panathenaic Stadium, Kerameikos and more.

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Temple of Zeus

After an extremely long and tiring day, some of us dared to walk up to Mount Lycabettus, the highest point in Athens. The view is intense. We literally saw the entire city from up there. Coming back, we visited the parliament building and were lucky to see the Evzone guards parading outside the building. Then, a dinner at Monistiraki Square and we call it a night.


Evzone guards parading outside Parliament


View from Mount Lycabettus

– Nishant

Lavrion Technological and Cultural Park – May 11

The National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) organized a tour for us to the Lavrion Technological and Cultural Park – an initiative to preserve a unique monument of an old mine site through restoration and rehabilitation.

LTCP promotes the history of activities from the past with industrial tools, equipment and archeology places in series of housing facilities. It was told that this site was where the national industrial revolution had been manifested, where series of technological innovations appeared for the first time. Apart from that, several environmental research projects are being implemented on this site.


One of the projects included the formation of a Hazardous Waste Landfill Site where polluted soils are deposited. After successful deposition, this landfill site was permanently closed and sealed. There is approximately 115,000 cubic meters of tailings material.

Next, we visited an underground space that was formed to store special hazardous waste that cannot be deposited at the Landfill Site. This underground space is entirely covered with shot-crete, with pillar heights of 5.5m, and room width and pillar width of 7m. The waste stored in this space will mainly consist of arsenic compounds and will be deposited in specific barrels and bags.

We also visited the laboratory that monitors and records all environmental parameters of the technical projects. As part of their energy generation initiative, they have implemented 2 solar panels and wind mills.

Overall, it was a great learning experience. We were very captivated to see their attempt to link technological research with their history and culture.


Athens, Day 1 – May 10

After a very exciting flight (due to turbulence) we finally arrive in Athens. Our hotel is located in the heart of downtown Athens, making it easy to travel around the city via metro, and mostly walking. Since today is a free day in Athens, we decided to explore the city.


Our first stop was to visit the famous Acropolis, exploring its stunning ruins, including the Parthenon. The Parthenon was a temple dedicated to Athena, goddess of the city. Next, we visited the New Acropolis Museum. The emphasis of this site is housing archeological findings from the Acropolis.


(Credit to ArchDaily)

It was a long day in this beautiful city. Calling it a night for now. It will be another exciting day tomorrow as we visit Lavrion Technological and Cultural Park.


Thessaloniki Part Two – May 9

We are all back in Thessaloniki today and enjoying a day of culture while staying at the ABC hotel. There are many museums here that we did not get the chance to see earlier and a few of us are checking them out. Thessaloniki is home to a number of museums which are all interesting I’m sure, but there were 3 easily accessible from our hotel which we visited. These are the Museum of Byzantine Culture, the War Museum, and the Archaeological Museum. All of them were fantastic but the Byzantine museum in particular stands out among the rest. Other destinations for the day included the Hetapyrgion or the “Yedi Kule”, the castle overlooking the city, and the ever-popular “doing the laundry”.

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^ Ancient metallurgy tools: crucibles and tongs

Heading to Athens next!

– Alex G

Vergina – May 8

Today was a day of driving back to Thessaloniki but with a few stops along the way. At Vergina, about halfway between Ptolemaida and Thessaloniki, there is the ancient tomb of Philip II of Macedon. Philip II was an ancient Greek king who ruled from 359 – 336 BC. In his time he brought most of Greece under Macedonian rule, fathered Alexander the Great and was a powerful ruler in his own right until his assassination. His tomb, along with those of other Macedonian kings, was discovered in 1977. We were able to tour a museum built around the Tumulus complex which was very interesting to see. Unfortunately no photography was allowed inside so there’s a lack of pictures this update. It’s a great display though. The dim lighting of the museum contributes to the atmosphere around the incredible wealth and status shown in the vast amount of grave goods on display, as befitting such kings. We recommend seeing this place for sure.

Afterwards we made another stop for a snack and ended up going by this beautiful church with a view.

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– Alex G

May 7 – Tour of the South Field Mine

Today we toured Greece’s Public Power Corporation’s (PPC) South Field Mine. PPC was founded in 1950 with the goal to autonomize Greece’s energy and today it is one of the largest heavy industries in the country. On the drive in it is farmland and power plants. The smokestacks here tower over the landscape, supplying nearly half of the country’s electrical power.

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When we got to the South Field Mine itself, Miltiades Triantafyllou, the mineral resources engineer, kindly was there to give us a fairly extensive and very informative tour of the operations. I’d like to thank him here for doing such an excellent job. After a safety orientation we piled into Unimogs and headed out. The first stop was an incredible viewpoint of the mine.


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This is a tremendously large lignite mining operation. Canadians may picture the Athabasca oil sands, but slightly smaller. Something in the area of 55 million tonnes of thermal coal is extracted here every year and used to feed the country’s energy requirements. We learned that the coal here has a variable calorific value from a few hundred to a couple thousand kCal/kg.



There is a very large fleet here. The mine uses both bucket-wheel excavators and traditional truck and shovel methods depending on the topology. The bucket-wheels spin and continuously excavate material to deposit it onto a conveyor. Nearly 180 km of conveyor belting is used to transport the ore to the stockpiles. The mine is also a hugely important employer for the region, with about 5000 employees and another 1000 contractors working here.



An interesting point, for us: there is no beneficiation at this operation. Selection of material is done entirely by the mining equipment with no further processing in the form of gravity separation or flotation. Perhaps beneficiation is not always necessary at a coal operation.

Blasting happens 3 times a day here. Miltiades was very accommodating and brought us to near the blast site at the conclusion of the tour. We may have a video up of that in the next update.

Afterwards we enjoyed a charming little recorded presentation on the history and current state of the overall PPC operation, aided by a scale diorama of the region.


The end of the day came with a delicious lunch from our hosts as we enjoyed the good company and recounted the day and thought of what the future would bring for the mine and the people who live and work here. We would all like once again to thank everyone who was a part of making our experience so enjoyable and worth the long flight. Thank you.



– Alex G

May 6 – Travel to Ptolemaida

We enjoyed our days in Olympiada and touring the El Dorado mines but it was time to move on. We packed our bags and set off for Ptolemaida last morning. Ptolemaida is home to PPC’s tremendously large lignite mining operations, of which they have graciously proffered a chance to tour. It’s a fair way over there though and the day involved a few choice stops by the seaside. More on lignite mining tomorrow.


The village of Nikiti possessed a beach, as many towns here do, which was picturesque as could be. Much, much more time could have been spent here. I can’t speak for everyone but I have been blown away by Greece’s beauty in our time here. It’s the kind where, when one sees it, one makes the conscious attempt to remember the scene in its exact form, as a crude photo could not do it justice. It’s that nice.

In other news the previously posted plan of everyone writing for a day on this blog is off. It will be just myself and the stupendous Nishant Sharma writing. We will, though, absolutely make use of everyone’s hard work taking photos, with dubious amounts of credit given.

– Alex G

May 4 & 5 – Hellas Gold (Olympias Mine, and Skouries Mine)

Hellas Gold arranged a couple of mine tours for the Grads. We visited two of the three Kassandra Mines (Olympias, Skouries, and Stratoni).

First, our group travelled to their Olympias Mine. It is an underground mine located in Chalkidiki Peninsula in northern Greece. We had a tour inside the underground mine, and the flotation plant. Currently the mine is processing their tailings material using a flotation process to produce three concentrates: lead-silver, zinc and gold bearing pyrite-arsenopyrite.

Then, we drove to Madam Lacoss area to view the tunnel under development. This 8.5km long tunnel will transport the ore from Olympias mine to the new flotation plant in Madam Lacoss.

The next day, we travelled to Skouries Mine – a project under development that will consist of both open pit and underground mine. The mine is expected to be in production by 2016. The project will produce a clean copper-gold concentrate via flotation as well as dore from a gravity circuit.

Overall, we were all very impressed by the information provided to us. Their attention to detail, environmental awareness and efficiency is commendable. Their hospitality and kindness will definitely be cherished by all of us.

– Nishant


The grad trip is now underway. After a relatively smooth trans-Atlantic flight featuring no problems but one lost bag, we touched down in Thessaloniki, Greece this morning. Many people are running on 2-3 hours of sleep over the last 48 hours but you’d never know it. When you step off the plane you notice a different smell, that of a new country. The weather is warm to us and the locals wear pants. Tomorrow, we board a bus to Olympiada where we’ll begin touring the nation’s mining industry. The coal mines in this area help to fuel its four power plants, which together provide 70% of Greece’s electrical power. But tonight we blink back our jetlag and see the night life. And it looks to be wild.

– Alex G