Court Decision Stops Work On Cowal Gold Project Electricity Transmission Line

5 November, 2004

Delays expected to cost millions and set back operation start up

Justice David Lloyd from the Land and Environment Court today handed down a decision invalidating consents and permits issued by the Department of Environment and Conservation to destroy Aboriginal objects on the proposed electricity transmission line (ETL) for the controversial Lake Cowal Gold Project.

The challenge was taken by Wiradjuri Traditional Owner Neville Williams who claimed that he had been denied procedural fairness over the issuing of the consents. Mr Williams complained that Country Energy and Dr Colin Pardoe, the consulting archaeologist for Barrick Gold, refused him access rights to investigate the Aboriginal objects which would be destroyed and/or disturbed by the construction of the ETL. Mr Williams has engaged in numerous legal challenges in a bid to protect Aboriginal heritage from mining at Lake Cowal situated 38km north of West Wyalong in Central Western NSW.

In his judgment Lloyd J found that Mr Williams had a legitimate expectation that he would be involved in identification and assessment of the significance of Aboriginal objects within the electricity transmission line corridor which Country Energy and Dr Pardoe failed to meet. Although he was invited to make submissions Country Energy and Dr Pardoe refused to allow him to be involved in the identification and assessment process during or subsequent to the original archaeological surveys.

Canadian company Barrick Gold have submitted to the Court that delay in the construction of the electricity transmission line is likely to cost the company over a million dollars a month.

Advocate and researcher for the Indigenous Justice Advocacy Network, Al Oshlack who appeared for Mr Williams at the hearing, said today that:

"This is a significant win not only for Mr Williams but for many other Aboriginal Traditional Owners who are struggling to protect sites which are being systematically destroyed by the NSW Government through the Department of Environmental and Conservation. We have estimated that over 600 Aboriginal sites in NSW have been issued with Consents to Destroys in the last 3 years. "

Mr Williams Court victory is very important in that it gives a precedent that the NSW Government through the DEC need to recognise the rights of Traditional Owners to have a say in the management and protection of Aboriginal sites" said Mr Oshlack.

The Court has ordered that Country Energy and Dr Pardoe must abstain from any activity which relies on the permits and consents or they would be in breach of the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

Inquiries: Al Oshlack Ph. 66 242437
Neville Williams Ph 0416 316 774