Jennifer the Maremma and the Cyanide Watch flag and banner rig
at the rear gate of Barrick Gold's Lake Cowal mine, 13 April 2006


Cyanide Watch Report 19 April 2006

The Lake Cowal Dance

Cyanide Watch is doing roadside witness beside the BP servo by the Newell highway in downtown Forbes as I tap this in. The Cyanide Watch flags are splendidly deployed and the "Cyanide Spills/Cyanide Kills" banner is brilliant in the sun.

We rigged a tarp for shade and I am at the keyboard of the cyber-shrine room which is the interior of This day is committed to recording and sending some words of our progress.

The Rain Corroboree at Easter was the most graceful and potent Earth defense I have been part of in many a long year. The camp was set on the dry plain and up against the back gate of the Barrick Gold mine and it was a flutter of flags.

Benny Zable and the Rainbow Chai tent were there from the Rainbow Region and their presence created a field of colour which, seen against the changing light of the vast sky of the Lake Cowal plains, was ever a delight to the eye.

The Rain Corroboree camp set up
adjacent to the rear gate of Barrick Gold's Lake Cowal mine, sunset 13 April 2006

About 120 Earth activists gathered, thanks to the networking of Natalie Lowrey, the national coordinator for Friends of the Earth. They came from Brisbane, Nimbin, Newcastle, Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide, the creme de la creme of greenie activists.

Amongst them were lots of students and lots of grrrls. The oldest participant would have been Nikki from Canberra about 75 years, and the youngest a one year old blonde haired boy. A clutch of Condobolin Wiradjuri joined the camp and also twin two and a half year old boys, Ollie and Chris from Bethanga near Aubury, whom I knew had been defenders of Lake Cowal even in utero.

Smoking ceremony
Rain Corroboree, Lake Cowal, Good Friday 14 April 2006

On Easter Sunday almost the entire camp climbed the mine gate and entered the mine site, ignoring warnings from the video camera wielding security and proceeded as a body, with the toddlers striding to keep up, to the pit about 800 meters away.

At the pit a young man named Paul, using a steel sleeve device he had brought for the occasion, locked himself onto the undercarriage of one of the huge pit trucks, as tall and as broad as a three story house.

The mine machinery shut down and the police were called. They soon arrived, just six of them in three wagons, and made 8 arrests and then set about negotiating the peaceable exit of the rest the group.

While negotiations were going on in the wind filled silence so victoriously regained by the closure of the mine's operations, something magic happened that etched itself into the heart memory of all who witnessed it, miners, protesters and cops. The invaders danced!

Now I was not an eye witness to invasion or the dance on the mine site, for I was otherwise occupied bearing witness at the front gate of the mine watching the flurry of mine vehicles and paddy wagons responding to the crisis.

Paddy wagon arrives at the front gate
of Barrick Gold's Lake Cowal mine in response to the walk on, Eastr Sunday 16 April 2006

But I listened in on the debrief that evening around a camp fire and saw in the brightness of the eyes how alive the experience of direct action had been for that circle of brave and dear ones.

And I had seen the dance being rehearsed that morning in the camp and I had also seen it performed at a protest action in the main street of Condobolin the previous day.

The Lake Cowal Dance
Condobolin, Easter Saturday 15 April 2006

The noble Winniata, the Maori elder who for so many years had been the heart and host of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, had been inspired to the choreography during his visit to Lake Cowal the previous Easter and he had since found the Kev Carmody song, Thou Shalt Not Steal, to be the perfect music.

Called the Lake Cowal dance, Winni dances it and leads it superbly all grace and nobility. The dancers move back and forth like waves on a Lake and turn in the sun like water birds wing stretching and wading. All together they moved, all hearts as one.

At the front gate we were eager for news especially after an ambulance came by. When the ambulance came back, thankfully empty, we pestered the driver for the story.

He told us of the lock-on and how the police commander, Inspector Kevin Hutley in person had spent two hours carefully and patiently cutting Paul free. The ambulance officer was full admiration for the protesters; "Good on you," he said as he departed.

The protesters in turn were vocal in their admiration of Inspector Kevin and the way he had handled the negotiations. Kevin in turn was grateful for the respectful and peaceful ways of the protesters and that he had not be obliged to call in the Operations Special Group police (riot busting thugs) who he had on hold back in Narrandera.

With the help of NSW Greens (Jeremy Buckingham in Orange and John Kaye in Sydney) and a timely call to an Australian Associated Press contact, the story was soon national and international news.

There were lots of video cameras at the action and the footage was quickly edited (hooray for Omega!)in the camp and replayed that night under the moon in the Rainbow Chai tent and sent next day to ABC TV Canberra to be be broadcast nationally.

The camp broke up on Easter Monday and people departed with the living spirit of Lake Cowal alive in the core of their being. We had sung and danced up the country and were were feeling high. Christos had certainly risen for us at Lake Cowal that Easter.

Called a Rain Corroboree we had shared three days in which light rain had fallen on us and the drought stricken land like a Buddhist blessing. and and friends returned to the front gate to be there in time to bear witness for the 6 am shift on both Monday and again on Tuesday morning. We put out flags and banners by the gate and, using the PA, spoke to the workers as they arrived on site.

Cyanide Watch witness with industrial artust, Lixa, at Barrick Gold's Lake Cowal mine, Easter Monday April 2006

We told them that our argument was not with them but rather with Barrick Gold and the corporately corrupt NSW Labor government (the "Carr-Macquarie Bank-Iemma" Government) who had approved it. We gave them warning that the mine would certainly be closed ("within 18 months" is the even money wager I am offering) and advised them to look for alternative employment and make the most of the opportunity they have to take what they can from Barrick, it having no long term loyalty to its workforce, they should feel no loyalty to it.

"May Barrick Gold bleed money till it dies."

While there I took media calls from ABC Radio Wagga, Prime TV Wagga, AAP, and Nine News Sydney.

Cyanide Watch had certainly been launched into the national media awareness at Lake Cowal.

An informant on the mine site had texted a message to say that a shipment of cyanide was already on site and that more was to be expected on Monday morning.

We went the with the intention of blockading the cyanide but none came. For a while there we protesters became another security check and anterior one, at the mine gate, stopping big trucks and demanding information on their loads. One of them was a twenty tonne tanker of water and the driver replied to my question "What are you carrying?" with admirable good humour: "Water, mate. Want a drink?"

Inspector Kevin Hutley and Sgt. David Dore from West Wyalong were soon a presence amongst us at the front gate and I was happy to hand over media calls so that Kevin could have his say.

Kevin reckons it is important that environmental protesters are allowed their say. He doesn't want terrorism or terrorism policing. The fair go is his creed, and anything else is unAustralian.

He told be all this as I rode with him back to the back gate camp together. He wanted the opportunity of another coffee at the Chai Tent and also an opportunity to say goodbye to the good people he had met in the past couple of days.

While there another media call came in, ABC Radio, and I handed the cell phone over to Kevin, sat by playing with a baby and listened as he described the camp to the interviewer as something wondrous. Handing back the phone Kevin grumbled: "You are making me a media star."

At 11 am on Tuesday 18 April arrived in West Wyalong and patrolled along its main drag with my voice on the PA spruiking about cyanide and inviting concerned citizens to come meet us at out road side camp by the Newell Highway.

JBenny Zable on Cyanide Watch, West Wyalong, 18 April 2006

No sooner into the spiel than my phone rang; it was Prime TV Wagga and they were trailing just behind. They got me to repeat the exercise getting footage both from within and without as it cruised through West Wyalong. They also got footage of me setting up the flags and also a talking head interview.

They loved what they saw and they loved what they heard. It was lead story on Prime TV news through out the Riverina and south west of NSW that night.

We reckon the road side acknowledgments we attracted in West Wyalong ran two to one in favour, and that in a town besieged by mining workers and sub contractors.

The most interesting visitor to our roadside camp was a nurse at the base hospital and the owner of a property adjacent to the mine. She says that residents are disgruntled at the impact of the mine on property prices (in town rents and property values have risen, out by the Lake they have fallen) and property security. It seems the miners have amongst them house breakers.

Peacebuses .com and .net set up for Cyanide Watch, beside the Newell Highway at West Wyalong, 18 April 2006

Local nurse Christine on Cyanide Watch at West Wyalong and the cyanide sands dump she showed us, 18 April 2006

As a nurse she was also concerned about the increase of venereal disease and unwanted pregnancies.

But most sinister of all, she was concerned about the cancer plague in West Wyalong. She took me to a cyanide sands dump left in the town by a previous generation of gold miners and pointed to a nearby street saying it had the highest incident of cancer (breast and bowel predominately) in the town, eight in ten households with a cancer victim.

Her opinion of the cancer plague was confirmed independently by three other West Wyalong residents I met. Naturally enough these people are cynical of Barrick talk suggesting that cyanide gold mining is safe.

But that is what Barrick is propagating as I write this. The mantra of "world's best practice" is being trotted out, the mantra of overweening self confidence that is repeated and repeated until disaster strikes again.

What else to expect? The PR mills are churning and comment retailers are having their palms greased with gold. Liars have to lie especially if they are paid.

But our truth has a streetwise grassroots appeal and its seems to have put the willies up the cyanide transporters for none have dared come by and in three days now. This is in itself a victory, however small and impermanent.

We are building for an action in Dubbo this coming Friday. Dubbo is where the cyanide will be transferred from rail to road transports and I expect that there will be some kind of dump created there to hold the containers of cyanide before it goes down the Newell Highway to West Wyalong.

I have been telling the media it is our intention to identify the Dubbo cyanide dump and blockade it.

Already I have had unsolicited calls from the Dubbo police and the Daily Liberal newspaper there who have picked up on it from my TV and ABC radio interviews.

The police sergeant who rang was fearful of hordes arriving. "What do you intend to do?" he asked. "Stop the cyanide transports," I replied. "You will need to fill in a form to get approval for a public assembly," he replied. Okay.

To the Daily Liberal I said I wanted to hold a lunch hour open mike Cyanide Speakout in the Macquarie Street mall and invite any civic leaders who approved cyanide transports through Dubbo to come and say why. After the Speak Out we will go find the cyanide dump.

Given that we are two old men and a dog we are nothing if not daring. But the way I see it is that this will just be the first Cyanide action in Dubbo. Local resistance will grow and the Peacebuses will return and dog the death trucks anywhere we find them.

Meanwhile the stars keep on turning and faithful Jennifer the Maremma lies at ease in the shade. We know how to wait.

For the Earth. To the dust!

Graeme Dunstan
25 April 2006

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