Protest Barrick
Home About us Issues International Campaigns Press Actions

Aboriginal Elders Occupy Barrick Gold’s Australian Head Office

http://www.savelakecowal.org/intro.html
Contact: Neville ‘Chappy’ Williams +61 416 316 774
Ron Gardner +61 414 098 536

July 13th, 2007

Wiradjuri Elders Neville "Chappy" Williams (third from left) and Ron Gardner (back to camera in wheelchair) in tense negotiations with Barrick's Steve Robinson (fourth from left) while other Barrick staff and protestors look on. Barrick Gold office foyer, Perth Western Australia 11 July 2007.

(Spanish version available at:
http://barrick.live.
radicaldesigns.org/
article.php@id=165
)

Elders and supporters of the Wiradjuri Aboriginal Nation have occupied the Australian head office of the world’s
largest gold mining company, Barrick Gold.


Around 35 people peacefully occupied Barrick Gold’s Australian headquarters in Perth, Western Australia on Wednesday in a bid to force the company to meet Wiradjuri protocols relating to people with bloodlines to Lake Cowal in Central
New South Wales where Barrick is operating a gold mine.

Elders Neville ‘Chappy’ Williams and Ron Gardner sought from Barrick:

  • copy of the Cowal Gold Project Ancillary Deed between Barrick Australia Limited and the so-called ‘Wiradjuri Condobolin Native Title Claim Group’
  • a response to an eviction notice delivered to Barrick
  • a meeting with Barrick senior management, and
  • any legal papers the company has that are the property of the Wiradjuri Elders.
Barrick’s response was to call the police and to ask the protesters to leave the premises saying they were ‘trespassing on private property’. After a sit-in lasting around an hour and being threatened with arrest, the Elders and supporters agreed to leave on the condition that Barrick agree to respond to the Elders’ verbal and written demands in writing.

“We’re fed up with Barrick’s lack of courtesy to Wiradjuri Elders so we’ve been forced to take this kind of action. We’ve been trying to get a copy of the ancillary deed and other documents like a full inventory of artefacts collected at Lake Cowal for a long time now,” Mr Williams said.

“All the Wiradjuri with ties to Lake Cowal have a right to see the deed and the inventory, not just the five sell-outs who have signed away our ancient cultural heritage. We’ve gone through the correct channels, through Freedom of Information, letters to Barrick and a request I made personally to Barrick Chairman, Peter Munk in Canada on only 2 May at their AGM. They keep saying the deed is ‘commercial-in-confidence’. So what have they got to hide? They should be open with all of us Wiradjuri people, but they keep on acting in secret and putting a lot of spin on their publicity about the mine and its so-called ‘benefits’. Their Perth public relations officer was extremely rude to us and showed us no respect at all.”

“Barrick has not gone through the appropriate protocol, nor have they spoken to the right Wiradjuri people about Lake Cowal,” Ron Gardner said. A nine-year veteran of the campaign to stop the gold mine in the Wiradjuri Nation’s heartland, Gardner has strong feelings about the mine. Until recently ill health has kept him away from the lake.

“I was shocked and emotionally upset to the point of tears when I saw the mine infrastructure on our sacred place,” he said.

“There are burials out there and it’s a massacre site. There are thousands of artefacts and scarred trees in the area that are testament to our People’s long and continuing occupation of the region, yet Barrick won’t release an inventory of all the artifacts they have collected or tell us what has happened to the scarred trees that have been removed to make way for the mine.

“The mine has split the Wiradjuri community. You don’t know who you can talk to or trust any more. Barrick continues to deal with just a small group over the $9.2 million deal they made. They’ve set up the Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation (WCC) but you have to join to become a member. As Chappy says, “We know who we are. You’re born into Wiradjuri. You don’t need a membership application”.

“The WCC is not benefiting the majority of Wiradjuri people. Most of us still have the same problems, poor health, housing in need of maintenance and upgrade and lack of education and job prospects.

“Barrick are wrecking the ecology out there at Lake Cowal. The company is drawing up to 3650 megalitres of water a year out the groundwater and Lachlan River near the lake and we’re still in the worst drought in recorded history.”

“They are using cyanide to leach gold from the ore. This inevitably leaches into the soil and can make its way into the water system. Despite what the company says in its PR spin, gold mining is just not safe. One teaspoon of 2% cyanide can kill a human and a lot of cyanide spills have occurred around the world. They are digging up a massive mount of earth out there and will leave a pit 1 kilometre long, 825 metres wide and 325 metres deep. It will be there forever, never to be filled in, a legacy for future generations.”

“They’ve cut down thousands of old trees that take hundreds of years to grow and provide habitat for lots of native species. Yes, they’ve replanted some vegetation but thousands of trees have died because they weren’t watered in the continuing drought”, Mr Gardner said.

“So we’re not going to stop our protests against Barrick until we get some justice,” Mr Williams said.

“They’ve made their position very clear and looks like they won’t budge. But we’re not alone. We have many rock solid supporters here in Australia like Kungarakan/Gurindji Elder Speedy McGuinness from the Northern Territory, who is fighting his own battle against new uranium mines on Aboriginal land there.

“We have great support from the students who sat in at Barrick’s Perth head office and our Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal friends across Australia and the world in the Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal. We’ve also got a great international coalition going with First Nations peoples where Barrick is damaging and destroying Aboriginal lands in Africa and North and South America. We’ll never give up the fight until the mine is stopped and our land is returned to us,” he said.

This is an ongoing story. Barrick faxed a letter to the Elders yesterday afternoon Perth time in response to their demands. The Elders have referred it to their legal counsel for advice.

 

Join our e-mail list