International Groups Decry Barrick Gold's Plans for a Cyanide Mine at Lake Cowal, Australia

February 19, 2002

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 second 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.

"Barrick's plans here in Australia are unacceptable." 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."

Barrick's plans include a one kilometre wide open pit on the edge of Lake Cowal which is listed in Australia's Directory of Important Wetlands and is also listed for its high conservation value on the Register of the National Estate. Over 172 species of birds have been recorded including migratory waders protected under international migratory bird treaties such as the the China-Australia Migratory Birds Agreement, (CAMBA)and the Japan- Australia Migratory Birds Agreement, (JAMBA).

"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 the Northern Territory 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 venture."

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 18 Australian groups including Friends of the Earth Australia, Birds Australia, Nature Conservation Council, The Greens NSW and Humane Society International. Over 25 groups worldwide have signed on as campaign supporters.

For further information contact:

Ruth Rosenhek
Ph: (02) 66213294
Email: [email protected]