Lake Cowal - Barrick Gold

Save Lake Cowal PosterWith their wads of cash and giant machinery Barrick Gold continues to desecrate Lake Cowal with a proposal to expand into the lake bed, doubling the size of the mine and extracting a further 53 million tonnes of ore from the open cut pit. This will add another 11 years to the life of the mine (until 2024). Barrick's water usage would increase to over 5GL per year.

Who is Barrick Gold
Barrick Gold Corporation is the largest pure gold mining company in the world, with its headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and four regional business units (RBU's) located in Australia, Africa, North America and South America. Barrick is currently undertaking mining and exploration projects in Papua New Guinea, the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Australia, Peru, Chile, Russia, South Africa, Pakistan, Argentina and Tanzania. For 2006, it produced 8.64 million troy ounces of gold at a cash cost of US $282/ounce. As of December 31, 2004 its proven and probable gold mineral reserves stand at 123 million troy ounces.

On January 20, 2006, Barrick acquired a majority share of Placer Dome. The production of the combined organisation moved Barrick to its current position as the largest gold producer, ahead of Newmont Mining Corporation.

Barrick Gold has been accused of a number of environmentally unsound practices by environmental groups. These include the use of cyanide leach tailing dams for its gold mine project at Lake Cowal, and the release of approximately seven tons of mercury during 2004-2005 at the Super Pit gold mine (a 50/50 joint venture with Newmont Mining Corporation) near the city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Western Australia.

In April and May 2008, indigenous leaders from four countries opposing large-scale gold mining on their lands described the adverse impacts of Barrick Gold Corporation. These leaders spoke of Barrick Gold's tactics in "suppressing dissident voices, dividing communities, and manipulating local and national politics". They also related stories about "lack of free, prior and informed consent for local people".

January 30, 2009 Barrick Gold Corporation was blacklisted by The Government Pension Fund of Norway, one of the world's largest Sovereign Wealth Funds, after the fund's Council on Ethics in an investigation found "an unacceptable risk of contribution to ongoing and future environmental damage" in the company's Porgera Gold Mine. The fund sold all its stock in the company, worth ca. 245m US$. A spokesman for the company disputed the allegations.

(Above) An edited extract of 'Barrick Gold' from

About Lake Cowal
Situated 47 kilometers north east of West Wyalong in central New South Wales (NSW), Lake Cowal is the state’s largest natural inland lake. It is part of the Wilbertroy-Cowal Wetlands within a large flood plain, the Jemalong Plain. Fed by its major tributary Bland Creek and by occasional floods from the Lachlan River, the lake is ephemeral but is substantially full for seven out of ten years. As floods recede Lake Cowal drains back into the Lachlan communicating with the Murray River.

Lake Cowal is included in the Australian Register of the National Estate and in its Directory of Important Wetlands. The National Trust of Australia (NSW) has listed Lake Cowal as a 'Landscape Conservation Area'. The Australian Heritage Commission has suggested the NSW government consider the Lake Cowal region for listing under the Ramsar Convention as a Wetland of International Importance.

Under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands contracting parties (of which Australia is one) are obliged to promote conservation, repair and wise use of all wetlands. Australia has already lost 89% of its wetlands over the last century.

The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Services (NSW NPWS) states, “Lake Cowal is listed on the National Estate because of the diversity and number of species that inhabit the lake. For example, Lake Cowal has at least three recorded accounts of more than 1% the Australian population of some wader species. As such, Lake Cowal also meets the Ramsar Wetlands of Importance listing criteria. The NPWS is of the opinion that Lake Cowal provides significant wetland habitats and drought refuge both in area, diversity of habitat types and duration of availability of resources.”

Barrick Gold at Lake Cowal
The proposed 'Mining Lease Application' encompasses approximately 2,650 hectares. One hundred and twenty-eight million tonnes of low to medium grade ore would be excavated from an open cut pit 1 kilometer wide and 325 meters deep on the lake shore and partly within the high water level of Lake Cowal to produce an estimated 2.7 million ounces of gold.

In February, 1999, following the findings of a second Commission of Inquiry, the New South Wales Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, the Hon Craig Knowles, signed a Consent to the development application made by North Gold (WA) Ltd for an open-cut cyanide leach gold mine.

The only barrier between the lake and the open pit would be an earth wall or bund. Tailings would be stored in dams 3.5 kilometers from the lake. Water would be supplied from a bore in the Bland Creek Paleochannel borefiled, 20 km east of the mine site and would pump up to 16 megalitres per day.

Destruction of the Heartland of the Wiradjuri Nation
Lake Cowal / The Bland is a very important sacred region for the Aboriginal Traditional Owners and is often called "the Heartland of the Wiradjuri Nation".

When explorers first came to Lake Cowal they recorded tribal Aboriginals who used the area as a campsite and sacred site. There are thousands upon thousands of artefact and relics at the Lake Cowal site that are testimony to this useage.

Barrick Goldand their predecessors have not properly consulted with many Aboriginal traditional owners from the region, many of whom have declared their opposition to the Lake Cowal gold mine project.

Developing a gold mine at Lake Cowal has already meant much destruction of this Aboriginal Sacred Site including Aboriginal artefacts, scar trees and other cultural objects. Barrick Gold has now been granted a Consent to Destroy from the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Services. This permit has allowed Barrick Gold to proceed with this destruction.

Endagered Flora and Fauna
Lake Cowal is home to many endangered flora and fauna species including the Austral Pillwort (Pilularia novae-hollandiae) Winged Peppercress (Lepidium monoplocoides) Australasian Bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus) Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) Blue-billed Duck (Oxyura australis) Painted Snipe (Rostratula benghalensis) Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa) Yellow-bellied Sheathtail-bat (Saccolaimus flaviventris) Little Pied Bat (Chalinolobus picatus).

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