Government dreams of an Alentejo gold rush are on hold after local managers of a Canadian gold mining company have disappeared, leaving behind unpaid workers.
Canadian officials at Colt Resources, who signed contracts with the Portuguese government in 2012 to extract gold in the Alentejo region, stopped paying workers and have scarpered.
Colt Resources is in trouble, as is its subsidiary Eurocolt which was running the mining operation in Portugal. All subsidiaries of Colt Resources are at a standstill as Colt Resources has been suspended from the Toronto and Frankfurt stock exchanges.
Five years ago, Colt's managers swung into town, full of assurances of wealth without limit. The Boa-Fé area, in the municipality of Évora, alone could contain eight million ounces of gold, the Canadians reckoned. The project is over, the workers are owed money and gold fever has turned into a headache.
"In January 2017, the applicants lost any contact they had with the managers and people in charge," reads workers' petition for the insolvency of Eurocolt Resources.
In the document submitted to the Sintra Chamber of Commerce, the workers who have petitioned for Eurocolt's insolvency say that they stopped being paid in May 2016 but continued to "perform their duties" over the subsequent months.
Eurocolt’s managers promised that they would pay the arrears and keep jobs, justifying the lack of payment with the “awaiting financing from abroad,” but of course this never materialised.
History: on November 2nd, 2011 Colt Resources signed contracts with the Portuguese Government to proceed with exploration for gold in the parishes of Nossa Senhora da Boa-Fé, in Évora, and Santiago do Escoural, in the parish of Montemor-o-Novo.
"If everything goes well, by the end of the third year we have the mine open and begin with normal production," said Jorge Valente at the time.
Six months later, Nikolas Perrault said that gold mining in the Alentejo "could start in 2014," while claiming that the results of the Boa-Fé test drillings showed "impressive degrees of gold near the surface."
The then CEO of Colt, stressing that the project was exceeding expectations, said that the company was "increasingly confident that it was viable to explore for gold in the Alentejo."
Since then, nothing has been heard from Eurocolt's managers as the company did not have the money to pay its existing debts.
The office of Minister Manuel Caldeira Cabral at the Ministry of the Economy, confirmed that the activity of Colt in the Alentejo is at a standstill, that there is nobody around to deal with questions over the contract with the Portuguese State, and that the Directorate-General for Energy and Geology is conducting the procedure for terminating the various contracts with Colt Resources.