The Timbarra J'Acuse tour took place 14 - 18 February 2001. It covered over 2000 km in a round trip, which brought witness to Timbarra cyanide crimes in Grafton, Armidale and Sydney.

The motivation for the tour was a spill from the cyanide heap leach gold mine on Timbarra mountain, the headwaters of the mighty Clarence River (biggest river by volume in NSW), 30 km east of Tenterfield, 250 km south west of Nimbin.

The spill happened during cyclonic rains of 1 February when 474 mm of rain fell on the mine site in 24 hours and cut road access, power and telephone. Delta Gold, the mine owner, admitted that during the storm water on the mine was out of control.

Hearing of the rains and the flood of sediment in Nelson's creek, the creek which drains the plateau around the Mine, Graeme Dunstan had gone to witness it and had been the first person to get to the mine after the flood waters subsided. He walked the perimeter and on the mine site itself in the rain and photographed and took water samples of the spill.

The February rains had demonstrated what the mine opponents had been saying from the beginning - that the rainfall figures, upon which the development of the mine had been approved, were fudged and that the mine had been an eco-catastrophe waiting to happen.

That a disaster of the scale of the Tizer/Danube cyanide spill had been averted was because green activists at the mine gates and Native Title litigants in the NSW Land and Environment Court had forced the excavation and crushing operations into "care and maintenance" and the cyanide on site had been much reduced.

For the first time the Mine owners admitted a spill from the so-called "closed circuit cyanide operation" but the regional media failed to take up the story.

The crew, who had been playing with the idea of show trials for cyanide crimes, met and decided the time was ripe to go bear witness outside the offices of those responsible for authorising, monitoring and operating the Timbarra Gold Mine.

On the evening of 13 February rolled out of Nimbin with a new banner rig and a new PA system mounted on the roof.


On the way to Grafton the crew stopped at the Tucki Bora Ring, an
ancient ceremonial ground of the Bundjalung (and one of the few surviving Bora rings) and invoked the ancestors to bless our journey. Stars were bright above and the half moon rising. We waited for an answer and it came as a breeze at our backs.

We took it to be the blessing of the Divine Wind that blows from the ancestors, through us in present time, and onto the future generations who are calling us into being to protect their right to clean water in the Clarence River.

So we went on our mission with a voice that spoke for Timbarra sacred mountain, for the ancestors who for 40,000 years had kept Timbarra mountain sacred and its waters pure, and for the countless generations of beings yet unborn who were demanding clean water.

The experience of the first Drug War Freedom Ride had taught us much about short, sharp and effective street protest. It had also established an excellent rapport with the NSW police. A typical response from the Duty Officers we met was along the lines: "You're the bus that issues forth from Nimbin. Heard about you. Will you be bringing the Big Joint?"

Maximum exposure, minimum confrontation is our slogan. We are more about bearing witness via the media and the web than demonstrating numbers with frustrated and unruly crowds. In and out in thirty minutes, with neither disruption to traffic nor aggro, our actions are a breeze for police to manage. At our actions usually the Duty Officer (= area commander) is the only police officer we see.


The first action was on 14 February in Grafton outside the National
Party Member for Page Mr Ian Causley, who, as NSW Minister for Mines had signed off on the Timbarra gold mine development approval seven years previous. Since then he had been a fervent advocate for the Mine and a constant source of assurance to the people of the Clarence valley, his electorate, of its safety.

At 7.30 am when the Grafton Duty Officer came on shift, Graeme was at the police station negotiating the action. At 8.30 am vehicles claimed the car parks we would need for the action. At 9 am we began erecting our banner rig and preparing the cardboard signature for burning. At 11 am we took up our positions and the TV news crews were waiting.

A huge and unexplained fish kill that had occurred in the lower Clarence River following the floods had primed our story. The NSW Fisheries Department had attempted to dismiss it as a "natural disaster" consequent upon the floods but the Clarence fishermen were saying it was neither a usual response to flood waters nor natural.

It is probable that cyanide did not contribute to the de-oxygenation of the river, but on the other hand it had not helped either to be putting poisons into a river of such fragile health. The coincidence (and one is got question whether there is any such thing as coincidence when on a mission for Timbarra sacred mountain) made our story hot and put Delta Gold on the defensive.

When we arrived outside Mr Causley's electoral office two agitated police constables were waiting for us. There had been complaints, they said, about obscenity in the lyrics of the music issuing from Pete's van which had been parked out front to hold the car parks. The words "forest fuckers" were repeated on one track and we had not even noticed. The officers were also concerned about reports of the smell of cannabis smoke coming from the van, which Pete had draped with HEMP Embassy banners.

"You detract from your cause with these things", the constable told us. "We know cannabis is part of your lifestyle, but please do not smoke it in the main street." All we could do was shrug, apologise and rejoice inwardly at the shift in policy and attitude that our cannabis law reform actions had achieved in Grafton.

Graeme got up on the roof and began speaking with the boost of two 30 watt horns. People stopped to listen. For two blocks , all the people in Prince Street, the main street, and all the people in the shops and offices, could hear the sound clearly. "Citizens of Grafton, this is, we have come to speak about the health of the Clarence River and indict the cyanide criminals.."

We had been told that Mr Causley was away from the office, a medical appointment we understood. So it was a surprise when Ian revealed himself in the crowd (he had been sitting in a parked car listening) and accepted our invitation to come up on top of to defend himself. The media cameras focussed in as Graeme gave him a hand to help him up.

It was a brave thing to do but Ian Causley, who had delighted in tongue lashing greenies in the past, was not that day operating on all cylinders. He repeated word for word the PR assurances that the Miners had given him. "The operating safety standards of Australian miners are amongst the highest in the world and improving all the time". Graeme reminded him that it was Australian miners who were responsible for the Tizer/Danube cyanide spill and needled him and his audience with doubt.
"What makes you so sure that the miners implemented all those consent conditions and that under-resourced government departments ever effectively monitored them?" Graeme was already drawing a bead on the Environmental Protection Authority for the Armidale the action planned for the next day. Ian finished looking crestfallen, and he angrily brushed away Graeme's offer to help him off the roof.

Graeme declared Mr Causley duped by the miners and proceeded to indictment him of cyanide crimes against the people of the Clarence River and future generations. St John lit the cardboard blow up of Mr Causley's signature, the TV cameras zoomed in for the burning, and applause was heard from strangers in the street.

Next went around the corner and hove to outside the office of Harry Woods, Member for Grafton and NSW Minister for Local Government. Harry was accused of failing to heed or act on warnings and close the Mine. This was difficult because Harry had always been a good friend to Nimbin activists, helpful during our visits to Sydney with the Cannabus and so on.

Harry was not in his office to hear our indictment, nor did the media pay the action any attention.

After giving Harry a serve on the PA we went into his electoral office and begged use of a telephone line so that we might do our web work, send out media releases and set up the Armidale action for the next day. Sure, the staffers said, because they were good people too, actively working for the welfare of Clarence River people. They too were concerned about the Timbarra Mine but reckoned themselves and the NSW Government powerless, in the face of the mining lobby and their lawyers, to close it down.

Photos from the Grafton Action 14 Feb 01


That afternoon retraced its Freedom Ride route driving out of Grafton and up the Gibraltar Range to Glen Innes where we surprised the venerable Badja Sparks with a visit. Then onto Armidale where the convoy reassembled at 6.30 am. Along the way we got calls to say how powerful the reports of our action had been on the TV news that night.

The EPA office was part of glass fronted block of government offices conveniently situated across the road from the Police station and a park where we were able set up our banner rig and cut and paint cardboard. Graeme negotiated the gig with the affable Inspector Matt Lynch with Graeme the more experienced in such things explaining the procedure. was set up across the street from the Government offices. On the front steps of the government offices we rigged the original Timbarra banners ("Save Timbarra' and "Water More Precious than Gold'), which a grimy with mud and tattered with the wear of many previous actions. On top of and acting as a backdrop for the cameras as Graeme spoke, was the new brightly coloured "Viva Timbarra" banner with our demands "* Close the Mine/* Remove the Poisons/* Repair the site/* Compensate the Injured/* Indict the Cyanide Criminals".

Graeme spoke to the government office workers and a small crowd of about 20 who gathered outside to the sound of the PA. He indicted Simon Smith, the Regional Manager of the Environmental Protection Authority (Environmental Pillage Authority, he had dubbed it) of cyanide crimes for signing off on the Mine development knowing the rainfall figures were fudged.

Simon Smith, he acknowledged was the meat in a sandwich, caught between a wealthy, aggressive and litigatous mining company, and a corrupt, complacent and uninterested government. But telling the truth, said Graeme even if it costs one one's job, is better than covering up a lie and putting a river system at risk of cyanide contamination.

Graeme invited Simon to come out and defend himself but there was no response from the office. In the witness of the ancients of Timbarra mountain, of the present people who depend for the health and livelihood on the water of the Clarence River and of future generations who have a right to clean water, Graeme made the solemn indictment and the cardboard signature of Simon Smith went up in flames.

After the action we went up to the University of New England for showers and gained permission for the Information Technology Help desk to plug in and do our web work. While there, Graeme got a call from Bob Dengate, an EPA colleague of Mr Smith, protesting the personal attack. Heated words were exchanged and Bob Dengate hung up abruptly but then rang back and apologised.

The point of the exercise, Graeme explained, was to remove the anonymity that bureaucracy and corporate structures had created around decision making. The Mine was poisoning the Clarence River because real people had planned and approved it. The aim of the Timbarra "J'acuse" Tour was to make them visible and hold them accountable for their actions.

Photos from the Armidale Acton 15 Feb 01


Driving through the night, sleeping and changing drivers, the convoy assembled in North Sydney outside the Blues Point boat shed of political activist Tony Spanos at 6 am Wednesday. In the park beside, with its magnificent view across the harbour of the skyscraper sky line, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, we set up camp cut and painted cardboard and prepared our rig. Molly grazed and Jennifer watched and warned off other dogs.

At rest places along the way, people came to us wish us well. They said they had seen us and our Armidale action on the TV news. For two nights in a row we had made the story of the Timbarra cyanide leak newsworthy.

Graeme was at North Sydney Police station at 7 am to negotiate the action with Inspector Sam Nicolson, who, as an old hand and dispensed with the paper work, and offered good advice on how to claim the appropriate parking spots across from Delta Gold's HQ at 99 Walker Street, North Sydney after the clearway conditions ceased at 10 am.

At 10 am was in position and by 10.30 am the banners were rigged and the action was ready to go. Practice had made us such a tight team, our set up so smooth and our occupations of public space so confident.

For this action Graeme had time that morning to fax media releases, take coffee with Tony Spanos and do a few yogic stretches before climbing up on the roof of to take the microphone.

The action aimed to name and indict the Delta Gold CEO and Operations Manager for cyanide crimes. We discovered too late that in our publicity we had got the names and titles mixed and that Lou Rozman was the chairman of the board of Delta Gold, and Terry Burgess the CEO. Not that Lou was any less culpable.

Graeme had rung the Delta Gold office to notify them of the action and to invite the accused to come down and defend themselves. Messrs Burgess and Ingham came and introduce themselves to Graeme as he was setting up. They said that they very much wanted to speak about the Timbarra mine but apologised that they it could not do so then because an international telephone conference had been set up. Even as he spoke to Graeme, Mr Burgess took a call from his secretary to say that the conference was waiting.

"Give them a message from me", said Graeme. "Cyanide heap leach gold mining is over. Disinvest!" They agreed to meet and parley after the action.

Graeme climbed onto, took the microphone and began the indictment in the name of the ancestors of Timbarra sacred mountain, the people of the Clarence River valley and future generations. The speakers were angled upwards and the sound bounced along the street and between the glass towers. About thirty people stopped in the street and listened. Most of our audience were the anonymous ones in the office towers. Afterwards a fourteenth floor manager came and complained he could not hear his client. We took it as a compliment.

After two cyanide indictments and much practice at public speaking on the Freedom Ride, Graeme's voice rave had become seamless and his voice powerful with the moral authority of the ancestors and the abiding Earth. Of his public speaking technique Graeme says, he prays for guidance before starting, then opens his heart and his throat as a channel. "The words just come tumbling out", he says.

The cardboard indictment of Delta Greed burned in the street. A Japanese media crew filmed it, but no Sydney media. Probably the Miner's PR had been very busy in denial. It seems in the Big Smoke we were just a hippy bus and a poisoned river some else's worry. Not to worry, our point had been made big time in the bush.

As the names of infamy burned, Graeme took the microphone again. "One more thing. If the closure of the Timbarra Gold Mine is not announced with a month, we will occupy the site and lock you (Delta Gold) out. In the witness of Timbarra sacred mountain, I swear this. Hear me."

Afterwards, tired but happy the crew of assembled at the Spanos boatshed to be hailed by Tony "You are all champions!" Molly and Jennifer took up territory in Blues Point park intriguing and delighting the people passing by.


The meeting between the Delta Gold CEO Terry Burgess, his Operations Manager, Peter Ingham, and Graeme Dunstan took place at 3.45 pm Friday 16 February on the balcony of the boatshed. Before them was a real estate developers wet dream - harbour, bridge, opera house yawning over us, waves lapping below, liners and container ships going by. Graeme had had time for a nap and was fresh out of a bath.

Explaining the venue Graeme said that these were the kind of fringe benefits that come to people who are actively engaged in closing down cyanide heap leach gold mining.

Terry and Peter are two English gentlemen technocrats, polite, intelligent and well meaning. They see themselves as being in the vanguard of the new and more environmentally responsible miner movement.

They were in earnest need to talk about the spill and hose down the fears that Graeme's strong words had evoked in the media. The wanted to deny that the spill, for which Terry apologised and said was more due to bad luck than bad management, had been either large or responsible for the fish kill.

Terry Burgess did all the talking. He was eager to establish some rapport with the Timbarra mine opposition so that there could be some "rational" discussion about the future of the mine and the problems of what to do with water in the now full holding dams. "Mostly rain water,"
assured Terry .

Terry had in mind some process of community consultation amongst stakeholders. He spoke as if he fully expected to have the mine operating again once there had been a "sensible" discussion about new operating procedures.

Graeme was very firm in assuring Terry that this would not be and delivered the Walker Street Lock Out ultimatum again. Terry just gulped. "What will you do? What could you do?" Graeme asked. Terry bit his lips.

He advised Terry to cut Delta's losses and quit Timbarra Mountain forthwith.

Terry expressed concern about the campaign to ban cyanide heap leach mining globally. He repeated the miner's mantra about the ever-improving Australian mining practices being amongst the highest standards in the world for operations and rehabilitation.

Graeme had heard, almost word for word, the same PR cant from former Minister for Mines Ian Causley two days previously and scoffed at the implicit technological optimism. Somewhere the PR mills of the Australian Mining Council had churned and were churning still.

The world does not need more gold, Graeme told Terry, and the pollution risks of cyanide heap leach gold mining are just too great. The rich get richer and adorn themselves with gold but the poor only get poorer and are left with huge holes in the ground and poisoned water forever.

He gave notice that that the Timbarra Lockout will be to cyanide heap leach gold mining in NSW, Australia and the world, what the Battle of Dien Bien Phu was to the French in Indochina, and what the Battle of Terania Creek was to rainforest logging globally.

They parted on friendly and respectful terms. Graeme empathising with Terry about the difficulties Delta had encountered since swallowing up Ross Mining in a merger. At the mention of the name, Lambertus de Graaf, Terry grimaced.

"Talk about a poisoned chalice!" said Graeme and gave notice that would be going after Delta's institutional shareholders with public accusations of cyanide crimes.

"When the global campaign against cyanide heap leach gold mining is over, it will be down there with land mines as an investment anathema", said Graeme. "Surely not land mines", said Peter Ingham weakly. "You just wait and see", said Graeme.

Photos from the Delta Gold Action 16 Feb 01


The crew learned from Tony that on the following Sunday morning, at Blues Point Green Peace would be staging a farewell of yachts bound to protest plutonium shipments in the Tasman Sea and we decided to stay and witness it.

All Saturday we camped by the park, meeting strange and wonderful people some of whom had come down from Blues Point Tower curious about the sheep and the white dog, bearing food and wine.

On Sunday morning, the Green Peace flotilla hove to off the park as did about 15 orange kayaks each with a No Nukes flag attached to their sterns. Tony Spanos' veteran ferry, MV Mulguy, too was moored off the park bearing flags and signage. Green Peace workers set up a PA and rostrum and Peacebus banners flanked the action.

A bright mild day on the Harbour, it was and about 100 people gathered to hear fine speeches from The Hon Ian Cohen (NSW Greens) and Senator Nick Bolgas (ALP Shadow Environment Minister) and a Maori woman. An aboriginal dance group danced then blessed the captains and crews by smoking them with a twitch of smouldering gum leaves. It was a simple but deeply moving ceremony.

As the crews boarded the yachts and got underway, Graeme addressed and blessed them from the roof of as rainbow warriors from the Rainbow Region to rainbow warriors of the oceans, his voice loud and clear across the water of the Harbour.

He saluted courage and great love of the crews and spoke of the Divine wind blowing through them from the ancestors to future generations. "May that wind fill your sails and carry you safely to your destination. May your mission to bring witness to the terrible danger to our oceans of plutonium contamination be successful. May you soon come back again to us."

Photos from the Greenpeace Launch 17 Feb 01

Close the Mine or be Locked Out!

"Close the Timbarra Mine or be locked out", was the ultimatum delivered by Timbarra activist, Graeme Dunstan to the Chief Executive Officer of Delta Gold, Terry Burgess, and his Operations Manager, Peter Ingham on Friday 16 February. Delta Gold is the owner of the leaky cyanide heap leach gold mine at Timbarra, near Tenterfield NSW.

The meeting between the Delta Gold senior management and Mr Dunstan took place in North Sydney after Mr Dunstan had publicly charged the management pair with cyanide crimes against the Earth and future generations. The charges were made from the roof of outside the Delta head office at 99 Walker Street, North Sydney, and were heard and witnessed by  hundreds of neighbouring office workers.

Subsequent telephone calls between the parties led to a meeting at which Terry Burgess admitted that small quantities of cyanide had leaked from the site. He apologised for breaking the earlier promise that NO cyanide would leak from the site ever and put the matter down to bad luck rather than bad management.

Mr Burgess is seeking to set up a community consultation meeting about the future of the Timbarra of mine where he expects to convince all the stakeholders of the safety of new operating procedures and re-open the mine.

He said that cyanide heap leach technology was improving all the time and that Delta Gold, and the Australian mining industry generally, was ever improving safety and rehabilitation practice.

Graeme Dunstan said he had heard that refrain before and he would rather have clean water than the promises of miners.

"It is the same set of lies and promises that has preceded all man made disasters from the Titanic to the Tizer. In particular, the trail to the disastrous cyanide spills around the world is paved with such deluded technological optimism."

Mr Dunstan advised Mr Burgess to cut Delta losses and quit Timbarra forthwith.

"It’s over", he said. "The Timbarra Gold Mine would never operate again. Clean water is more important to the people of the Clarence valley than making more gold and making rich people richer."

Mr Dunstan’s ultimatum was that either Delta Gold announce a firm date for the closure of the Timbarra Mine by the 16th of next month, or expect the site to be occupied by rainbow warriors who will lock out the Miners and take full responsibility for removing the poisons and healing the mountain.

Mr Dunstan said would be a repeat of story of the Solomon Island Gold Mine which, Delta acquired along with the Timbarra Mine when it merged with Ross Mining. The Solomon Island gold Mine is now shut down and its site occupied by a local resistance group.

Mr Burgess protested that the responsibility for the Timbarra Mine and its continued safety and rehabilitation was Delta Gold’s alone.

"Why should we trust the ones that lied about the risks of the Timbarra Mine to bring good faith and future vision to its restoration?" Mr Dunstan countered.

"The best people to recover the site are the greenies, who opposed the mine from the outset and with their determination, courage and great love, shut its operations down", he said.

Mr Dunstan said that it was his desire to see the Timbarra Mountain cleared of poisons, revegetated and made sacred again.

He said he had a vision of the Timbarra mine site with its pits and dams becoming a natural parkland memorial where the heroes who defended the right of future generations of beings in the Clarence River valley to clean water would be remembered forever and praised.

He said it would be a place where the stories of cyanide crimes would be recorded as a warning to future generations, a place where the eco- folly of cyanide heap leach gold processing remembered forever. Lest we forget!

The three day Timbarra J’Acuse Tour of had a huge impact and was well received by people in the streets wherever it set up. Along the way it also charged the Member for Page and former NSW Minister for Mines, Ian Causley, and the Regional Manager of the Environmental Protection Authority, Simon Smith, of committing cyanide crimes.

Although ignored by Sydney media, the tour and its charges were broadcast nationally on radio and throughout rural NSW on regional TV news services, and followed by thousands on the internet.

"The J’Acuse Tour gave voice to a deep and widespread rural concern about the health of our rivers and the deep distrust rural people have for their political leaders, their government protection authorities and mega-buck corporations which make lots of promises and denials but yet leak poisons," said Mr Dunstan.

Further Media Information
Photos of Timbarra in rain 3 February Photo1 Leachheap & Photo2 Overflow
Graeme Dunstan,,
0412 609 373
Simon Smith, Regional Manager, EPA
02 6672 2336
Terry Burgess, CEO Delta Gold,
02 9903 4000
Ruth Rosenhek, Rainforest Information Centre,
02 6621 3294

Background to the Timbarra J'Acuse Tour

During the rain and wind storm that lashed Tenterfield on 1 February last, water on the Timbarra Gold Mine was, by the admission of Mr Lou Rozman, the Chairman of the Board of Delta Gold the owner of   the mine, out of control and cyanide washed from the site into the headwaters of the Clarence River.

In the storm, the mine site recorded 474 mm of rain in 24hours. Road access was cut, telephone lines went down and both grid and emergency backup power failed. In theory the Mine had been designed to contain a 1 in every 400 year rain 24 hour event of 475 mm.

The EPA and Delta Gold agree that not much cyanide leaked ("barely measurable") but that any leaked at all gives the lie to the miner's promise that NO cyanide would leave the site.

That a spill and an eco-catastrophe of the scale of the Tizer/Danube was averted, was because green activists and Native Title litigants had forced the Timbarra Mine to close mining and crushing for 18 months and the amount of cyanide on site (orginally over 200 tonnes) was much reduced.

Timbarra activist, Graeme Dunstan, fearing a spill drove 250 km through flood waters and roads obstructed with fallen trees, mud slides and wash outs, and arrived at the Mine gates at 12.30 am on 3 February, about 30 hours after the storm. He was at the gates before any of the mine management returned to the site and he walked the perimeter of the mine photographing and taking water samples of the outflow. (Timbarra Witness)

When the local media showed no interest in reporting the near disaster, Graeme  called the crew of together and it was agreed to hit road with a three day Timbarra J'Acuse Tour.

As NSW Minister for Mines in the Greiner government, Mr Causley, now federal member for Page, signed the approval for the Timbarra gold mine and assured citizens of the Clarence River valley that the Timbarra Gold Mine was safe.  The storm established that Mr Causley had lied and put at risk the Clarence River as well as the livelihood and health of the people who depend on it.

On 14 February went to Grafton and bore witness to his lies by burning an enlargement of his signature outside his electoral office in the main street of Grafton. he was accused of wilful cyanide crimes, of crimes against the environment and future generations.

On the same day, the Member for Grafton and NSW Minister for Local Government, Harry Woods was also named as a cyanide criminal for his tardiness in heeding warnings and his refusal to take actions to close down the mine.

On 15  February rolled on to Armidale where it accused the regional manager of the Environmental Protection Authority, Mr Simon Smith, of cyanide crimes. On behalf of the EPA, Mr Smith had approved the Mine knowing the rainfall figures were fudged, covered up on the risks and then failed to monitor the Mine effectively or implement any emergency procedures during the storm crisis.

On Friday 16 February, went to the head offices of Delta Gold and accused the Chairman of the Board Lou Rozman, CEO Terry Burgess and Operations Manager, Peter Ingham, of cyanide crimes.

Parked outside the boatshed of Tony Spanos at Blues Point, North Sydney, on 17 February witnessed the departure of a pair of Green Peace yachts which are off to join up with a Green Peace flotilla from New Zealand to protest plutonium shipments through the Tasman.