Wiradjuri elder warns of risk of groundwater poisoning from gold mine at Lake Cowal
Wiradjuri Traditional Owner Neville 'Chappy' Williams continues to warn of the dangers arising from the Barrick Gold mine at Lake Cowal. With water filling Lake Cowal for the first time in 10 years, the dangers of having an open pit gold mine in a lake bed in a flood plain are becoming evident.
The Lake Cowal Gold mine uses cyanide to separate the gold from the rock, producing enormous amounts of acidic poisonous waste stored in two 1km square tailings dams on the flood plain.
Neville 'Chappy' Williams, Wiradjuri Traditional Owner said in a media release, "We recently took a flight over Lake Cowal. The visual image of Barrick's mine sitting in the Lake legitimises the concerns we have been voicing to the company, the state government and through our legal challenges for over the past 10 years."
"With the tailings dams and potential acid mine drainage I feel that toxics like cyanide and arsenic are destined to leak into the underground water table."
"We oppose the mine. There is a large number of sacred sites, this is our dreaming place and in the mid-1800s there was a massacre of our people at Lake Cowal."
Natalie Lowrey, National Liaison officer for Friends of the Earth Australia said, "There has been more rain since our flight, another four more local government areas within NSW have been declared as natural disaster zones because of flooding. One wonders how the state government and Canadian corporation, Barrick Gold, can continue operating this high risk gold mine in a lake bed within a floodplain."
"An average of 79 tons of waste will be created at Lake Cowal to extract one ounce of gold."
"This waste rock interacts with air and water to create sulfuric acid, which in turn creates acid mine drainage, this is harmful to ecosystems making water acidic. The sulfuric acid leaches out substances from the waste ore, such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury."
"Combine this with the real possibility of flood waters reaching the two 1km square tailings dams which contain cyanide and we will have more than a natural disaster zone on our hands, instead we will have a toxic death zone."
2010 has been a bumper year for rain across New South Wales, making the farmers happy but causing rivers to flood across many areas of the State including the central western region, innundating the flood plain.
Mr Williams said, "Corporations like Barrick Gold don't give a stuff about our cultural heritage let alone the impacts this mine will have on the broader community, plants, birds and water-life if cyanide and arsenic poison our waterways and food bowl."
Ms Lowrey says, "We have seen how cyanide has caused havoc in water systems across the world with over 30 spills in the past five years. Gold mining has also been linked to 96 percent of the world's arsenic emissions."
Mr. Williams recently won an injunction opposing Barrick Gold's proposed expansion under Part 3A of the Planning act which has been found to be corrupt by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
"We are never going to give up, we are never going away, we will fight to the bitter end to protect and preserve our ancient cultural heritage - that is Lake Cowal", he concluded.
Photo Copyright Connor Ashleigh used with permission