Wiradjuri expose mine pit collapse at Lake Cowal

May 4, 2008

Wiradjuri traditional owner Neville "Chappy" Williams has helped expose a pit wall collapse at Barrick's gold mine in Lake Cowal, 47 kilometres north-west of West Wyalong in central western NSW.

A spokesperson for the traditional owners, who are seeking native title rights, told ABC News on March 27 that Barrick had covered up the collapse just as it is seeking NSW state government approval to increase the life of the mine by seven years.

Chappy Williams told Friends of the Earth, "It is hard to bear the pain of the destruction of our sacred site. Barrick has ignored our demands to protect cultural objects and the ecological significance of the lake".

He added that there are serious environmental and worker safety issues that Barrick is ignoring. Lake Cowal lies in the Lachlan River plain, within the Murray-Darling basin, and Indigenous communities are worried the mine and its heavy use of water and cyanide are a huge risk to the system.

Environmentalists are worried as well. "We are concerned about the mine's impact on local Aboriginal and farming communities, particularly the mine's massive consumption of water", said Natalie Lowrey from Friends of the Earth, Australia. "The pit wall collapse is also of major concern to mine workers."

Opposition to the mine, which began in 2004, has grown this year. Over Easter the Wiradjuri and their supporters organised a convergence at Lake Cowal. This was followed by a march and gathering of concerned citizens at the Katoomba railway station on April 11 to protest the transport of cyanide to the Lake Cowal mine.

Last year Friends of the Earth and CorpWatch joined Wiradjuri and Western Shoshone activists from Nevada in the US to protest outside Barrick's annual general meeting about mining on their lands.

This year the Wiradjuri will be joined by Western Shoshone activists, as well as Diaguita activists from Chile and Ipili activists from Papua New Guinea on an Indigenous speaking tour to Canada and the United Nations.

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