MAC: Mines and Communities

Lake Cowal gold project Native Title Controversy

Published by MAC on 2003-07-18

Lake Cowal Gold Project Native Title Controversy to be Heard by Full Federal Court

18 July 2003

Court Grants Traditional Owners Right to Appeal to Strike Out Native Title Group

The full bench of The Federal Court is to hear a precedent making appeal to strike out the Wiradjuri Native Title Claim Group who signed off on the controversial, Lake Cowal Gold Project, in the Lachlan River floodplain, 80ks south of Condobolin.

On July 17, 2003 Justice Branson granted leave for the Chairperson of The Mooka Traditional Owners Council, Neville Williams to file the Appeal to the Full Federal Court.

Mr. Williams has been litigating for over 18 months in a desperate bid to save Lake Cowal which he describes as "The sacred heartland of The Wiradjuri Nation."

Following the Native Title sign off, The New South Wales Premier announced on the 13th of June, that Barrick Gold, the owners of the 1.2 Billion dollar Lake Cowal Project, had been granted a 20 year mining lease.

Yesterday the Court was told, that the mining company and government will rue the day if mining goes ahead. Mr Williams and other Traditional Owners have maintained their position that without their consent, Barrick Gold and the NSW Government will be facing a huge legal risk of hundreds of millions of dollars, similar to the OK Tedi precedent.

Mr. Williams said: "This tiny minority of people who have no rights under our traditional customs and lore have sold our priceless heritage for a few dollars, a couple of menial, low paid jobs and a cultural roadshow.

"They are the shame of the Wiradjuri Nation".

"I heard the Barrick Gold lawyers plead with the judge that my being in Court is causing them uncertainty they can be certain of one thing I will not be moved and I will never give way from my duty to ensure our sacred sites are protected."

Inquiries Neville Williams 0416 316 774

Indigenous Justice Advocacy Network 9328 0968

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