also in francais, espanol and esperanto
28 protesters were arrested this morning at Barrick Gold's mine operation in Lake Cowal, central western New South Wales. They were authorised to enter the mine site by Wiradjuri Tradtional Owners of Lake Cowal and its surrounds.
Image: Activist, Amanda Sekold was one of 28 peaceful protesters arrested at Barrick Gold's mine in Lake Cowal. Photo: Fiona Lee
Entering the site at dawn the protesters climbed the bund walls into the open cut pit whilst Wiradjuri Traditional Owners performed a smoking ceremony and 15 other protesters blockaded the front gates of the mine. Over 50 workers waited patiently to get into the mine site for their shift change.
"The supporters were authorised by us, the Traditional Owners," said Neville Chappy Williams, Traditional Owner, Mooka/Kalara United Families within the Wiradjuri Nation, Lake Cowal, who have been in the courts against the world's largest gold miner, Barrick Gold, for the past 10 years.
Image: Wiradjuri Traditional Owner, Neville Chappy Williams leads his supporters onto the mine. Photo: Fiona Lee
"We asked our supporters to enter the mine site to bear witness to the destruction and document the mine's impact. It is important that Wiradjuri maintain access to our cultural sites."
Lauren Campbell was arrested in the mine site having made the journey from Adelaide to Lake Cowal.
"Before going onto the mine this morning I looked at some recent aerial photos of Barrick Gold's operation, but it didn't prepare me for the devastation of what we saw. Walking onto country and standing in the mine was an affirmation of why we are here."
Image: Protesters enter the open cut pit. Photo: Fiona Lee
Another arrested protester, Nectaria stated, "To be charged with trespass after being invited onto Wiradjuri country by Traditional Owners undermines and discredits any claims by the federal and state governments that they are taking on the issues of the environment, Aboriginal health and Aboriginal sovereignty. It seriously highlights the continuation of cultural genocide in Australia."
"When we were arrested the police kept stressing to us that we didn't get permission from Barrick Gold, inferring that we did have authority from the Wiradjuri Traditonal Owners of the Lake Cowal area." said arrestee, Amanda Seckold from Melbourne.
Protesters overheard security telling the police that the mine would shut down in the next year or so because Wiradjuri and their supporters would win against Barrick Gold.
Image: At dawn 15 protesters blockade the front gates of the mine, over 50 workers wait patiently. Photo: Drew Misko
"Wiradjuri Traditional Owners of Lake Cowal have a right to protect their cultural sites, a right to protect their cultural water flows and a right to maintain access to this site. Their knowledge has been carried down generations for thousands of years and can help us better understand how to manage this land for future generations," said Natalie Lowrey, national liaison officer, Friends of the Earth Australia and long term Lake Cowal campaigner.
"Damage to water and water resources is the worst environmental consequences of gold mining. Water systems around mines are contaminated by cyanide, other process chemicals, and the acid mine drainage that runs off the exposed rock."
Image: Protesters peacefully occupy the mine site for 4 hours before getting arrested. Photo: Fiona Lee
"This makes you wonder why a mine like Barrick Gold was ever approved in the heart of the Murray-Darling basin which has over three million Australians directly dependent on its water."
All 28 arrested protesters will not plead guilty to trespassing in closed lands within the Barrick Gold mining lease in Lake Cowal.