|Internationally Significant Environment, not clapped-out cattle country|
by Diet Simon, Independent Media Center Australia
Over the past three days Wiradjuri Traditional Owner, Neville 'Chappy' Williams has been back in the Land and Environment Court challenging Barrick Gold's expansion of its' cyanide leaching mine in Lake Cowal – the Sacred Heartland of the Wiradjuri Nation.
“This is not a modification, it is a radical transformation which will destroy Aboriginal sites, including already registered sites and will further desecrate our country,” said Mr. Williams.
“The court documents revealed that Barrick Gold is aware that the newly proposed saline bore field is not totally separate from other aquifers. Draining this aquifer could suck water from somewhere else.”
Justice Biscoe expressed astonishment that there was no opportunity for public scrutiny and for the “public to put forward objections” in assessing these modifications under NSW Planning Act.
Referring to the 1992 Earth Summit (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Justice Biscoe noted the precedence for “the public to adopt an adversarial position” but acknowledged in this case in regards to the NSW Planning Act that there is no obligation to seek public response.
Al Oshlack from the Indigenous Justice Advocacy Network and legal agent for Mr. Williams said, “The development approval regime of the current NSW government had reached a point where environmental impacts and public interests are totally disregarded.”
“The result is that we now have widespread environmental degradation. We have developments in NSW which are causing irretrievable and widespread harm to the environment and desecration of Aboriginal cultural heritage.”
“I worry for the future generations of our country, who are being left a toxic legacy.”
“It is absurd to sit in the court and listen to the lawyers for the Minister for Planning and Barrick Gold trying to argue that the expansion of a cyanide leaching gold mine will have minimal environmental impact.
“Lake Cowal is a sacred site and an internationally recognised wetland but they describe it as clapped-out cattle country,” said Mr. Williams.