MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Lake Cowal Wiradjuri Traditional Owners Threaten Multimillion Dollar Law Suit

Published by MAC on 2003-06-12


Lake Cowal Wiradjuri Traditional Owners Threaten Multimillion Dollar Law Suit

Media Release - June 12 2003

The Federal Court was told that the NSW Government and Barrick Gold would face a multi million dollar law suit if a Native Title agreement is finalised over the controversial Lake Cowal Gold Project.

Wilcox J was hearing a challenge from Wiradjuri Traditional Owners to strike out a registered native title claim group who have signed an agreement giving the green light for the 1.2 billion dollar Lake Cowal Gold Project to proceed.

The Court heard evidence from Mooka and Kalara Traditional Owners that the purported claimants had no authority or rights to represent the Wiradjuri People to allow mining at Lake Cowal which would destroy one of the most sacred sites within The Wiradjuri Nation.

The unincorporated claim group led by former Rugby League star, Percy Knight, who was serving a 2 year suspended sentence for defrauding The National Federation Aboriginal Education Consultative Group had already agreed to the NSW NPWS to issue a “consent to destroy” to over 20 significant Aboriginal sites at Lake Cowal.

Legal Representative for the the Traditional Owners, Mr Alan Oshlack, in response to the Courts inquiry, on what would be the consequence if the strike out succeeded in face of the signed agreement stated that: “They (the company and the NSW Government) would rue the day that they proceed without consent from the Traditional Owners. They will face a common law suit for trespass and damages.”

Legal opinion estimates that such a suit could be estimated to amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, many more times then any compensation payable under a Native Title agreement.

It would also open up a pandoras box of litigation from other Traditional Owners who have legitimate grievances that the Native Title Act is being used as a vehicle to dispossess and destroy Aboriginal Land and Culture.

Mooka and Kalara Traditional Owner, Neville Williams who bought the proceedings, stated after the hearing : “We will never give up the struggle to save our sacred heartland, we will never let go. I advise Barrick Gold and the Government: don’t desecrate our dreaming place don’t mine our sacred site. Our heritage, culture and tradition is as old as time itself. How dare a foreign company come into our country and ride shotgun over Traditional Owners.”

Wilcox J has reserved his judgement for ten days.

Inquiries Neville Williams – 0416 316 774 Indigenous Justice Advocacy Network – 02 9328 0968

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