MAC: Mines and Communities

Local Group Takes Cyanide Debate to New South Wales Parliament

Published by MAC on 2004-10-19

Local Group Takes Cyanide Debate to New South Wales Parliament

Media Release - Rainforest Information Centre (RIC)

For Immediate Release: October 19, 2004

Sydney, Australia - Today, the Lismore based teamed up with the Greens New South Wales to bring Mining Amendment (Cyanide Leaching) Bill 2004 to Parliament as a matter of urgency. The Government supported the Greens' motion to have the Bill debated.

"Cyanide is lethal," said Ruth Rosenhek, co-Director of RIC. "Its use in gold mining puts humans, precious waterways, flora and fauna seriously at risk as leaks and spills from mines are frequent."

Cyanide Leaching Bill 2004 would prohibit the recovery of gold, silver and other metals by cyanide leaching of ore in new mining projects such as the Cowal Gold project.

"With the Cowal Gold Project now entering its construction phase, an estimated 6000 tonnes of cyanide is scheduled to be transported each year, beginning in early 2005, from Queensland to the edge of Lake Cowal," said Ms. Rosenhek

"For at least 8 years, 25 tonnes of cyanide would be trucked to the site most days of the week. According to the NSW Roads and Transport Authority, on average 1 out of 10 trucks has an accident each year. Clearly this is an unacceptable risk.

"Cyanide leaks and spills and the damage wrought by these accidents has previously been under-reported both in Australia and overseas. Since the year 2000, dozens of incidences involving cyanide leaks and spills have been reported worldwide sometimes wiping out entire river systems as in the case of the Tisza and Danube Rivers in Romania and Hungary."

"These sorts of accidents are just as likely to happen in countries with strong environmental protection measures such as the USA and Australia.

"Despite government assurances that the Timbarra Gold Mine located in western New South Wales was a world best-practice mine, there were overflows from the toxic wastewater ponds into the surrounding creeks on a number of occasions in early 2001.

"There is nothing in place to prevent a tailings pond disaster from occurring at the Cowal Gold Project in the same manner as it did at the Northparkes copper-gold mine (Parkes, NSW) which saw thousands of birds killed in 1995 due to a failure in monitoring cyanide levels.

"In fact, the Cowal Gold Project tailings ponds do not meet Australia's best practice standards which recommends small tailings ponds cells to ensure effective monitoring and emergency management. Not only are the Cowal Gold Project tailings ponds huge (1.3 km x 1.3km), they are situated on a floodplain."

"Cyanide has been banned in the state of Montana which reported 62 spills or leaks of cyanide between the years 1982 and 1998."

Thousands of NSW residents have signed a petition asking for an end to the use of cyanide leaching in gold and silver mining.

The matter was adjourned and the Bill will be debated at the end of October.

For further information, contact Ruth Rosenhek on (02) 66213294 or

Visit for details of Cyanide Bill 2004

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