MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Labor, Coalition stymie Bid to Ban Cyanide Mining

Published by MAC on 2004-11-09

Labor, Coalition stymie Bid to Ban Cyanide Mining

Media release - Greens

November 9, 2004

The Carr Government and Liberal-National Party Opposition today joined forces to defeat the Greens' proposed law to ban cyanide-based mining in New South Wales.

"Labor and the Coalition have revealed that they are prepared to risk cyanide spills on rural roads and environmental devastation at places like Lake Cowal," said Greens MP Lee Rhiannon, who proposed the Bill.

"Six thousand tonnes of cyanide will be transported to the site each year from Queensland to the edge of Lake Cowal, and the risk of an accident is high. But Labor, the Liberals and the Nationals are willing to expose country communities to that risk.

"Cyanide spills have devastated rivers and ecosystems around the world, including a seepage problem revealed just last week at Kalgoorlie. But Labor, the Liberals and the Nationals are willing to expose the NSW environment to that risk.

"New bio-leaching technologies that replace cyanide technology are now in use in Brazil, Peru, Ghana and Tasmania. There is a safe way to do

this mining, but Barrick, Labor, the Liberals and the Nationals are ignoring it.

"The gold mine at Lake Cowal will provide only short-term jobs, and many of those jobs will go to people from outside the Central West. The

Greens support long-term, sustainable jobs, rather than jobs at mining operations that jeopardise safety and the environment.

"The Nationals are out of touch with rural communities on this issue. Rural people want sustainable jobs, not band-aid solutions that endanger the health of communities and the environment.

"The Greens call on the Coalition and Labor to change their stance before NSW suffers the kind of cyanide accidents and disasters that have

blighted other communities around Australia and the world," Ms Rhiannon said.

Cyanide mining - a backgrounder

The National Party and Labor Party are making a number of false claims about cyanide leach mining and the Greens' effort to ban it.

1. Jobs

NATIONALS/LABOR CLAIM: Any move against cyanide mining will hurt employment in rural and regional Australia, particularly at the Lake

Cowal project.

THE FACTS: Many of the jobs associated with Lake Cowal will go to people from outside the Central West region, as the Environmental Impact Statement suggested. The jobs are short to medium-term, and not sustainable. The potential damage to the environment of Lake Cowal from a cyanide spill at the mine will affect long-term employment in the area.

2. Alternatives to cyanide

NATIONALS/LABOR CLAIM: Cyanide mining is the only viable technology for this kind of gold mine.

THE FACTS: This is entirely false. Bio-leaching is a cleaner, greener alternative and is already in use both overseas (Peru, Brazil, Ghana) and right here in Australia (Tasmania). The CSIRO is also conducting further research into thiosulfate leaching, another promising alternative to cyanide mining.

3. Barrick's record

NATIONALS/LABOR CLAIM: Barrick Gold has conducted an extensive study on the Cowal mine's environmental impacts, and can be trusted to do the right thing.

THE FACTS: Barrick is the half-owner of the Kalgoorlie Super Pit gold mine in Western Australia. In the past fortnight, an independent review has revealed that a large area around KSP's Fimiston 1 tailings dam has been affected by increased salinity, heavy metal contamination, cyanide contamination and elevated cyanide levels in groundwater. Other miners in the vicinity are now facing contamination issues and economic losses due to the environmental impact of the Fimiston dam, and some are calling for a judicial inquiry.

Hans van Leeuwen Media Adviser Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon Parliament of NSW Macquarie St, Sydney 2000 T: (61 2) 9230 3551 F: (61 2) 9230 3550 M: 0425 310 562 hans.vanleeuwen@parliament.nsw.gov.au

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