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MEDIA ALERT: Smoking ceremony, blockade and protesters occupy open cut pit halting mine operations.

Contact: For more info:
Neville Chappy Williams, Traditional Owner, Mooka/Kalara United Families within the Wiradjuri Nation, Lake Cowal
0447 841 560

Graeme Dunstan, Cyanide Watch
0407 951 688

Mia Pepper, Save lake Cowal campaigner
0415 380 808

April 12th, 2009

Aerial photo of Barrick Gold's operation in lake Cowal, NSW, Australia. 2 April 2009 Photo: Conor Ashleigh

Wiradjuri Traditional Owners and supporters are inside Barrick Gold's mine operation in Lake Cowal central western New South Wales currently halting operations.

Wiradjuri are conducting a smoking ceremony inside the mine site. Over 10,000 artefacts have been stolen and kept by Barrick Gold Corporation at the mine site in a  compound encircled by a 6 foot fence. Over 25 supporters are currently occupying the open-cut pit and several others are blockading the front gate to prevent shift change.

"This is a fight for justice, Barrick Gold Corporation is destroying our culture," states Wiradjuri Traditional Owner from the Lake Cowal area, Neville Chappy Williams at the smoking ceremony, "We have been in the courts now for 10 years, it has been a desperate, never ending uphill fight but we are not giving up and we are not going away."

"They are destroying our culture so we stand firmly in the ground to assert our inherit right to occupy and enjoy our land. Aboriginal sovereignty has never been ceded, we have a right under 116 of the constitution to practice our religion."

Caroline Glass-Patterson, Wiradjuri woman from the local area states, "We have bought a cooloman in to the mine site to do a smoking ceremony outside the compound where Barrick Gold holds on to our sacred artefacts."

"We stand here on poisoned and desecrated land, the smoking ceremony will cleanse and protect the artefacts. We want Barrick Gold to shut down it's operation and leave and for our artefacts to go bought back to country."

"While we stand in ceremony over 25 of our brave supporters are currently climbing the bund wall to occupy the open-cut pit".

Images: Graeme Dunstan from Cyanide Watch blockades the front gates (left) and mine workers unable to enter the mine site for shift change. Photos: Drew Misko via mobile phone

Over 6000 tonnes of cyanide are transported over 1600km from Orica in Gladstone in Queensland to be used at the Lake Cowal mining operation. Cyanide has caused havoc in water systems across the world with over 30 spills in the last six years. On average, it takes 79 tons of waste to extract one ounce of gold

"We are here to tell Canadian owned Barrick Gold Corporation that it is time for them to stop operations," states Graeme Dunstan's from Cyanide Watch who is part of the blockade at the front gate of the mine preventing shift change.

"Water depletion is a major negative consequence of gold mining and cyanide is the chemical-of-choice for Barrick to extract gold from the crushed ore, despite the fact that leaks and spills of this chemical are extremely toxic to fish, plant life and human beings."

"This is a culturally and ecologically significant ecosystem in the heart of the Murray-Darling basin. It is witnessing one of the longest droughts in history. There should be no gold mine in this area."


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