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1998-2008 ... Lake Cowal scandal in central New South Wales, Australia

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Neville 'Chappy' Williams, Wiradjuri Traditional Owner, Lake Cowal, and Arinya Freeman (Wiradjuri Nation) listen to a webcast of Uncle Chappy's confrontation with Barrick Gold's founder and Chairman, Peter Munk at Barrisk's AGM on May 2nd, 2007 in Toronto, Canada. Photo: Allan Cedillo Lissner/GlobalAware.org
For more photos from actions in Canada

Aboriginal significance

more images here at savelakecowal.org





Wiradjuri Elders Neville "Chappy" Williams (third from left) and Ron Gardner (back to camera in wheelchair) in tense negotiations with Barrick's Steve Robinson (fourth from left) while other Barrick staff and protestors look on. Barrick Gold office foyer, Perth Western Australia 11 July 2007.
Photo: Jane Morrison

 
Neville "Chappy" Williams, Wiradjuri Traditional Owner addressing protestors outside the Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation (WCC)'s office, Condobolin, Saturday 7 April 2007. Barrick Gold funds the WCC through a secret agreement that the majority of the Wiradjuri Nation
has not authorised. Photo: Jane Morrison

Lake Cowal is the sacred land of the Aboriginal Wiradjuri people.  Neville Williams from the 'Save Lake Cowal' campaign:

"Lake Cowal, it's part of the Wiradjuri nation, it's a dreaming place. We are part of the land since time begun, the natural way." 


The land surrounding Lake Cowal has a rich cultural heritage according to Williams, who travelled the area with his grandfather in the 1940s and 50s.

"It is filled with marked trees, very old trees, shields and all sorts of sacred objects," he says. "The area is very, very rich in Aboriginal artefacts and cultural objects; stone axes, very small blades and microlits are still being found at Lake Cowal. I see it as ludicrous that in the Land and Environmental Court the judges said at various times that the crown owns the artefacts. Well, let me tell you that the Crown doesn't own the artefacts, we inherited them, they were made by our old people and they belong to us."

The land is also regarded as sacred for the Wiradjuri nation because, as explained by Williams, a huge Aboriginal massacre occurred at Lake Cowal in the late 1800s.

"Marshall law was enforced on my people, by mountain settlers, when killing Aboriginals wasn't murder," says Williams.

Williams believes the drilling at the open-cut gold mine is drilling into the spirits of the Wiradjuri ancestors.

"If I smashed my way into a cathedral, tipped the alter over, pushed the priest out of the way and grabbed the bible and tore a heap of chapters out I would be arrested," says Williams. "I feel that the Government and the mining company have absolutely no regard for our culture."

 

Protesters at the Lake Cowal gold mining site. PHOTO: Natalie Kent 2004

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We strongly believe in this campaign having raised several thousand dollars to bring a cyanide mining expert from the United States for legal evidence to tackle the similarly wrong headed Timbarra gold mine around 1999/2000.

Aboriginal Traditional Owners oppose the mine at Lake Cowal, most notably spokesperson Neville Williams. He has had a very significant legal win in early November 2004 at the link below and see campaign group links following:

More background with links for active public interest groups involved in the Lake Cowal issue and definitely on the side of goodness and light, in our humble opinion anyway ...

Also see the video produced by Rainforest Information Centre web link above and refer to this letter following from civil society groups to Barrick Gold multinational:



COALITION TO PROTECT LAKE COWAL
PO Box 368, Lismore, NSW 2480
61 (02) 66213294

Peter Munk, Chairman
Barrick Gold Corporation
Royal Bank Plaza -Suite 2700
Toronto
Canada M5J 2J3

January 3, 2002

Dear Mr. Munk,

This letter is to officially inform you of our urgent request that the gold mining project planned for Lake Cowal, an area that is listed on the Register of the National Estate as well as the Directory of Important Wetlands, be immediately halted and that no further mining activities or related work occur now or in the future at the Lake Cowal site or surroundings.

The Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal -- Nature Conservation Council, Friends of the Earth - Australia, The NSW Greens, Mineral Policy Institute, Central West Branch of The Wilderness Society, Central West Environment Council, Rainforest Information Centre, Humane Society International and others -- aims to protect the Lake Cowal region against high risk extractive industries such as gold mining and to restore the land in and around the Lake to a healthy vibrant ecosystem.

It is unacceptable to risk cyanide spills, acid mine drainage and heavy metals, to name but

a few of the possible consequences, in this important listed area. A spill of cyanide laced wastewater could wipe out the entire wetland and related waterways. With the region being prone to floods, these sorts of risks are vastly increased.

In addition, the Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal supports the Aboriginal community of Condobolin who have declared their opposition to the Lake Cowal gold mine project. It is the Coalition's understanding that Homestake/Barrick and their predecessors have not properly consulted with many traditional owners from the region.

Homestake/Barrick should reconsider this undertaking. We believe that there are alternative means of revenue generation possible for this region that would benefit both land and people.

Many of the Coalition member groups have been involved in an extensive and successful campaign to shut down the Timbarra Gold Mine in Northern New South Wales. This mine was proclaimed to be of the highest environmental standards and yet is now seen to be a disgrace by the industry itself with a slumping heap leach pad and several overflows from ponds containing contaminated water.

The environmental and human rights record of Homestake/Barrick has already been marred by a number of infamous violations including the 1997 civil suit filed by the US Department of Justice, the State of South Dakota and the Cheyenne River Sioux against Homestake, the May 1998 spill of cyanide-laced tailings from the Homestake Mine into Whitewood Creek and current allegations against Barrick in Tanzania.

We urge you to work towards restoring your corporations' reputation by abandoning the Lake Cowal project forthwith. To proceed further would be to engage in a costly and long drawn out conflict with environmental defenders of NSW and Australia.

Clean water more precious than gold.

Please advise us of your decision at your soonest convenience.

Yours respectfully,

the Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal
Friends of the Earth - Australia
Nature Conservation Council (Sydney)
Central West Branch TWS (Orange)
Mineral Policy Institute (Sydney)
The Greens NSW (Sydney)
Rainforest Information (Centre Lismore)
Central West Environment Council
Nimbin Environment Centre (Nimbin)
Humane Society International (Avalon, NSW)
Peacebus.com

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Campaign website of the Save Lake Cowal Coalition involving Ruth Rosenhek of Rainforest Information Centre.

Lake Cowal threatened!!

Waterbirds fly at dusk, Lake Cowal, NSW, Australia.
Waterbirds fly at dusk, Lake Cowal, NSW, Australia.
Waterfowl, including the rare Freckled Duck.
Waterfowl, including the rare Freckled Duck.
Healthy lignum, waterbird nesting habitat, Lake Cowal.
Healthy lignum, waterbird nesting habitat, Lake Cowal.
  
Flooded lignum and canegrass, Lake Cowal, important wetland habitat.
Flooded lignum and canegrass, Lake Cowal, important wetland habitat.
  

One of the most precious freshwater wetland complexes in eastern Australia, Lake Cowal, central New South Wales, is threatened with a proposed open-cut cyanide-leach mine and toxic tailings dams!

Lake Cowal is a National Estate wetland of immense biological and cultural importance. It is a major habitat for migratory and nomadic waterbirds on a national scale, a sacred place for the Wiradjuri people, and a favoured destination for many outdoor enthusiasts.

Conservation organisations, both government and community, believe that the fragile ecology of this wetland is no place for a toxic mine.

Enjoy this photographic tour of Lake Cowal, then please visit the link provided below to participate in the email campaign.

Diversity of life at the mouth of Bland Creek, Lake Cowal's inflow.
Diversity of life at the mouth of Bland Creek, Lake Cowal's inflow.  

Thousands of visitors have enjoyed Lake Cowal over the years.
Thousands of visitors have enjoyed Lake Cowal over the years.  

Lake Cowal viewed from Wamboyne Mountain, showing lignum beds.
Lake Cowal viewed from Wamboyne Mountain, showing lignum beds.  

Pelicans by the flock hunting through the shallows of Lake Cowal.
Pelicans by the flock hunting through the shallows of Lake Cowal.
  
Stormclouds over a flooded Lake Cowal.
Stormclouds over a flooded Lake Cowal.
  
Receding waters leave milfoil and river red gums.
Receding waters leave milfoil and river red gums.  
Rufous Night Herons gather near their nesting colony in flooded Lake Cowal forest.
Rufous Night Herons gather near their nesting colony in flooded Lake Cowal forest.  
Sacred Ibis arrive to roost for the night,  Lake Cowal.
Sacred Ibis arrive to roost for the night, Lake Cowal.  
Family of Great Crested Grebe on Lake Cowal, one of the multitude of waterbirds which raise their young on the lake.
Family of Great Crested Grebe on Lake Cowal, one of the multitude of waterbirds which raise their young on the lake.  
Squadron of pelicans hunt in the river red gum flooded forest, Lake Cowal.
Squadron of pelicans hunt in the river red gum flooded forest, Lake Cowal.  
Flock of Straw-necked Ibis wheel on thermals above the nesting colony in Lake Cowal lignum.
Flock of Straw-necked Ibis wheel on thermals above the nesting colony in Lake Cowal lignum.  
Wandering Whistle Duck photographed at Lake Cowal, far from its northern habitats. The lake is a meeting place for nomadic waterbirds from all over Australia.
Wandering Whistle Duck photographed at Lake Cowal, far from its northern habitats. The lake is a meeting place for nomadic waterbirds from all over Australia.  
The rare Freckled Duck, a frequent inhabitant of Lake Cowal.
The rare Freckled Duck, a frequent inhabitant of Lake Cowal.  
Male Blue-billed Ducks display during the breeding season, one of the rarer waterbird species which use Lake Cowal.
Male Blue-billed Ducks display during the breeding season, one of the rarer waterbird species which use Lake Cowal.  
Yellow-billed Spoonbill catches prey by feel in its special bill.
Yellow-billed Spoonbill catches prey by feel in its special bill.  
White-necked or Pacific Heron hunts in old-growth river red gum flooded forest.
White-necked or Pacific Heron hunts in old-growth river red gum flooded forest.  
Great Egrets hunt in the wetland shallows, along with herons, ibis and spoonbills.
Great Egrets hunt in the wetland shallows, along with herons, ibis and spoonbills.  
Nest and eggs of a Magpie Goose pair which nested on Lake Cowal in 1989. The lake supports unusual wildlife for its latitude.
Nest and eggs of a Magpie Goose pair which nested on Lake Cowal in 1989. The lake supports unusual wildlife for its latitude.  
The rare and beautiful Superb Parrot lives in the woodlands surrounding Lake Cowal.
The rare and beautiful Superb Parrot lives in the woodlands surrounding Lake Cowal.  
Windmill in water shows the ephemeral nature of Lake Cowal, the wet and dry phases of which are both of ecological importance to the functioning of its ecosystem, and to agriculture and fisheries.
Windmill in water shows the ephemeral nature of Lake Cowal, the wet and dry phases of which are both of ecological importance to the functioning of its ecosystem, and to agriculture and fisheries.  
People as well as wildlife flock to the lake to enjoy its natural values. Campers at Lake Cowal.
People as well as wildlife flock to the lake to enjoy its natural values. Campers at Lake Cowal.  

A White-faced Heron preens to protect its wings while at peace in the productive shallows of Lake Cowal. Everyone needs to protect and care for their assets.  

A White-faced Heron preens to protect its wings while at peace in the productive shallows of Lake Cowal. Everyone needs to protect and care for their assets.


Hope you enjoyed this tour of Lake Cowal. If you would like to see the lake and wetlands stay this way, please take a moment to participate in the email campaign:

Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal 

Sun rises over the waters of Lake Cowal - the dawning of another day across this timeless and priceless jewel of nature.

Sun rises over the waters of Lake Cowal - the dawning of another day across this timeless and priceless jewel of nature.  

 

 

 

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