MAC: Mines and Communities

International Groups Decry Barrick Gold's Plans for Lake Cowal

Published by MAC on 2001-05-23

International Groups Decry Barrick Gold's Plans for Lake Cowal

Organisation: Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal
Contact Person: Ruth Rosenhek
Telephone: (02) 66213294
Address: PO Box 368, Lismore, NSW 2480

Word is spreading rapidly about Toronto's Barrick Gold's plans to implement a cyanide leach gold mine at Lake Cowal situated in Central West New South Wales, Australia.

During World Wetland Week (Feb 2-6), international support for the protection of Lake Cowal spread rapidly across the globe. Organizations and individuals worldwide sent letters to Toronto's Barrick Gold, world's 2nd largest gold producer, asking Barrick to put a halt to their plans. Groups raised their voices from across east and west Europe, Serbia, Ukraine, Canada, US, Indonesia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and South Africa. Campaign Supporters from abroad now include IUCN Sri Lanka, WWF Bolivia, Friends of the Earth International, Earth Justice Movement (South Africa) and Institute for the Protection of Nature of Serbia.

"Wetlands are of international significance." says Ruth Rosenhek, spokesperson for the Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal. "According to World Watch Institute, the Earth has lost over one half its wetlands in the last 100 years and more than 800 million people are now without clean freshwater. Australia has lost an astronomical 89% of its wetlands."

"Wetlands are important because they supply freshwater. They act like giant sponges that absorb rainfall and slowly release it, while helping to purify water and control floods."

Lake Cowal is not only named in Australia's Directory of Important Wetlands, it is also listed for its high conservation value on the Register of the National Estate.

According to the Register of the National Estate listing, "Lake Cowal supports populations in excess of 1% of the national population of waterbird species. Because of this New South Wales Government is currently preparing a nomination for its consideration as a wetland of international importance under the RAMSAR convention."

"Unfortunately, National Parks & Wildlife Services has not pursued the nomination for Lake Cowal due to 'resource constraints' and 'complex nature of tenure', says Rosenhek. We believe that these wetlands would have been nominated had a gold mining project not been in the works. We urge NPWS to start working on the nomination as a matter of urgency. To do otherwise would be to risk losing a crucial component of the world's heritage."

"Clearly it is too risky to put a cyanide leach gold mine on the edge of a precious Lake and wetland system. Just last week a small spill in Northern Territories killed over 500 birds, a dingo and some kangaroos. It is not acceptable or sensible to risk terrible damage to drinking water, river life and birdlife to name but a few of the potential outcomes of this endeavor."

The Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal launched the campaign to protect Lake Cowal in December 2001. Membership in the Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal has grown to now include 16 groups including Friends of the Earth Australia, Birds Australia, Nature Conservation Council, The Greens NSW and Humane Society International.

For more information, contact Ruth Rosenhek at (02) 66213294 and visit

Rainforest Information Centre
Box 368, Lismore 2480 NSW
(02) 66213294

See the Lake Cowal campaign at

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