Stop the Cyanide!
Indict the Cyanide Criminals.

written for the Nimbin Good Times 31 January 2006

Despite the determined opposition from the Wiradjuri native titleholders over the past 3 years, the NSW government has backed Barrick Gold, the Toronto based transnational, all the way and the Lake Cowal gold mine, near West Wyalong in western NSW, is expected to commence its toxic operations in March.

Cyanide Watch represents a new direction in the campaign to save Lake Cowal and it will target the transport of bulk cyanide with road side witness and direct action in the towns through which the cyanide transports will pass on their 1600 km journey to the Lake from the manufacturing plant in Gladstone Queensland, 100,000 tonnes over 13 years.

Supposing each load was 50 tonnes on a Double B road train about 25 metres long, nose to tail the line of trucks would extend 50 km. ThatŐs a lot of trucks and a lot of cyanide: an accident waiting to happen. Just a teaspoon (10 ml) of 2% sodium cyanide solution is lethal to an adult human.

The Lake Cowal gold mine development proposal was originally knocked back as environmentally unacceptable but, after the closure of the Timbarra gold mine by the determined opposition of local activists (the Timbarra Cafe out back of the Nimbin Museum was the campaignŐs hub), the corrupt NSW government changed its mind.

Because of that association, local activists have always felt a responsibility for far away Lake Cowal. Furthermore the Timbarra campaign opened our eyes to the toxic impacts of cyanide gold mining globally: now we seek to ban cyanide gold (and silver) mining everywhere and forever.

In particular Ruth Rosenhek of the Rainforest Information Centre in Lismore has been a leader in this. The background to the Lake Cowal campaign can be reviewed at the website she initiated at

The root cause of the investment boom in gold mining is the cheapness of cyanide and the efficiency of the cyanide process in dissolving gold from the crushed rock: it extracts something better than 97% of the available gold. This has made low grade ores like those to be worked at Lake Cowal profitable at 6 parts in 10 million.

So when you hear news of gold prices rising, weep for future generations of yabbies, frogs, fishes, wading birds, ducks, marsupials and humans who will be poisoned by the toxic legacy of gold mining. Higher gold prices mean lower grade ores become viable. Working lower grade ores means bigger pits, more mega litres of diesel consumed and more tonnes of green house gases released, more kilo tonnes of poisons carted about the land and more mega litres of permanently poisoned water left behind to leak back into ground water.

About 100,000 tonnes of cyanide is manufactured in Australia each year, all but a few tonnes for the gold mining industry. Some 40,000 tonnes is shipped to gold mines in the South Pacific and South East Asia, and 60,000 tonnes is carried by road to the far-flung gold mines in Australia.

To date the toxic consequences of this investment boom have been kept from public awareness by the remote locality of the gold mines, their wire mesh perimeter fences, their armed security guards, the lies of the gold miners and their PR companies and the complicity of corrupt governments.

On 3 January last the NSW Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, approved the Transport of Hazardous Materials Plan for the Lake Cowal gold mine. This Plan details the toxic trails to Lake Cowal. Be alarmed to learn that the Minister has no intention of making public this Plan unless requested to do so by the Barrick Gold. Government by the corporation for the corporation.

Cyanide Watch aims to make visible cyanide crimes and cyanide criminals. Our slogans are: "Stop the Cyanide!" and "Indict the Cyanide Criminals."

And who are we?

Two grey haired nomads standing up alive and equipped with funky vans, artful signage, banners and laptops: Peacebus companions, Graeme Dunstan and John Peace, aka and

Veterans of many a campaign, John and Graeme will depart Nimbin in February and go via Sydney and Canberra to the towns on the toxic trails that lead to Lake Cowal. There they will set up their banners and signage by the roadside, bear witness and build local networks of resistance.

It is a Goliath and David scenario. Barrick Gold with its millions in collusion with the NSW Government and its media clout, up against a couple of old pensioner hippies of very little cash.

But John and Graeme know from past experience of occupying public place and standing up and speaking out, that being Earthed in the truth and doing best you can with what you got, wins respect and many friends. It takes a lot of money and effort to maintain a lie, but just one candle dispels darkness.

Friends of the Earth Australia will be backing the Cyanide Watch campaign and for those who want to support it with a personal presence Lake Cowal at Easter (17-19 April) will be an excellent opportunity.

An Easter Corroborree/Convergence is being planned at the Barrick mine gates and, after, it is proposed to go to West Wyalong and set up roadside witness there. And maybe stop a cyanide truck or three É

Be there.

For peace. For justice. For the Earth!

Graeme Dunstan
31 Jan 2006


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