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Situated 47 kilometers north east of West Wyalong in central New South Wales (NSW), Lake Cowal is the state’s largest natural inland lake. It is part of the Wilbertroy-Cowal Wetlands within a large flood plain, the Jemalong Plain. Fed by its major tributary Bland Creek and by occasional floods from the Lachlan River, the lake is ephemeral but is substantially full for seven out of ten years. As floods recede Lake Cowal drains back into the Lachlan communicating with the Murray River.

Lake Cowal is included in the Australian Register of the National Estate and in its Directory of Important Wetlands. The National Trust of Australia (NSW) has listed Lake Cowal as a 'Landscape Conservation Area'. The Australian Heritage Commission has suggested the NSW government consider the Lake Cowal region for listing under the Ramsar Convention as a Wetland of International Importance.


Under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands contracting parties (of which Australia is one) are obliged to promote conservation, repair and wise use of all wetlands. Australia has already lost 89% of its wetlands over the last century.

The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Services (NSW NPWS) states, “Lake Cowal is listed on the National Estate because of the diversity and number of species that inhabit the lake. For example, Lake Cowal has at least three recorded accounts of more than 1% the Australian population of some wader species. As such, Lake Cowal also meets the Ramsar Wetlands of Importance listing criteria. The NPWS is of the opinion that Lake Cowal provides significant wetland habitats and drought refuge both in area, diversity of habitat types and duration of availability of resources.”


The proposed ‘Mining Lease Application’ encompasses approximately 2,650 hectares. One hundred and twenty-eight million tonnes of low to medium grade ore would be excavated from an open cut pit 1 kilometer wide and 325 meters deep on the lake shore and partly within the high water level of Lake Cowal to produce an estimated 2.7 million ounces of gold.

In February, 1999, following the findings of a second Commission of Inquiry, the New South Wales Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, the Hon Craig Knowles, signed a Consent to the development application made by North Gold (WA) Ltd for an open-cut cyanide leach gold mine.

The only barrier between the lake and the open pit would be an earth wall or bund. Tailings would be stored in dams 3.5 kilometers from the lake. Water would be supplied from a bore in the Bland Creek Paleochannel borefiled, 20 km east of the mine site and would pump up to 16 megalitres per day.



Lake Cowal is home to many endangered flora and fauna species including the Austral Pillwort (Pilularia novae-hollandiae) Winged Peppercress (Lepidium monoplocoides) Australasian Bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus) Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) Blue-billed Duck (Oxyura australis) Painted Snipe (Rostratula benghalensis) Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa) Yellow-bellied Sheathtail-bat (Saccolaimus flaviventris) Little Pied Bat (Chalinolobus picatus).


The Lake supports fish of high conservation value such as the Silver Perch (Bidyabus bidyabus) which is protected in New South Wales; the Freshwater Catfish (Tandanus tandanus) which is subject to a voluntary ban by commercial fishers; and Macquarie Perch (Macquaria australasica) also protected.


277 species of birds have been recorded or are considered as possible occurrences in the Lake Cowal region. Significant numbers of migratory species listed in the China-Australia Migratory Birds Agreement, (CAMBA) and the Japan- Australia Migratory Birds Agreement (JAMBA) use the lake as habitat. As a signatory to these two agreements, Australia is responsible for the conservation of the habitat of these listed species.



Lake Cowal / The Bland is a very important sacred region for the Aboriginal Traditional Owners and is often called "the Heartland of the Wiradjuri Nation".

When explorers first came to Lake Cowal they recorded tribal Aboriginals who used the area as a campsite and sacred site. There are thousands upon thousands of artefact and relics at the Lake Cowal site that are testimony to this useage.

Barrick Goldand their predecessors have not properly consulted with many Aboriginal traditional owners from the region, many of whom have declared their opposition to the Lake Cowal gold mine project.

Developing a gold mine at Lake Cowal has already meant much destruction of this Aboriginal Sacred Site including Aboriginal artefacts, scar trees and other cultural objects. Barrick Gold has now been granted a Consent to Destroy from the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Services. This permit has allowed Barrick Gold to proceed with this destruction. See Valentines Day Action.

Click here for media releases about court actions of Wiradjuri Elder Neville Williams.

Click here for Statement by Neville "Chappy" Williams



Cyanide is lethal. One teaspoon of a 2% solution can kill an adult human. Cyanide is even more toxic to aquatic biota than to birds. Contrary to gold mining industry claims, cyanide leaks and spills are commonplace in the industry. These mining accidents have poisoned entire river systems and have devastating impact on bird life. Cyanide does not necessarily breakdown rapidly into safe chemicals. Many potential breakdown products are about as lethal as cyanide itself.

A spill of wastewater containing cyanide, arsenic and potentially other toxins could severely damage the entire Cowal wetland and related waterways including the Murray River System already over-stressed by salt, nitrogen, acidity and agricultural chemicals. As well as the risk of killing fish, bird-life and farm stock, toxins could enter the food chain and jeopardise fishing industries adn drinking water. (See CYANIDE ACCIDENTS).

Heavy Metals such as zinc cadmium and lead could enter soil and waterways. Arsenic levels are high in this ore body.
Dr Barry Noller, Deputy Director of the National Research Center for Environmental Toxicology, in “Cowal Gold Project: Comments on the Environmental Impact Statement” writes, “longer term generation of seepage under alkaline pH and more alkaline conditions may give solubilization of arsenic. Note that arsenic is soluble under alkaline conditions and that the predominant form is arsenite. Arsenite is extremely toxic to biota and is a carcinogen. Evidence the effect of population drinking groundwater in Bangladesh, through contraction of skin cancer.”

Timbarra Gold Mine, New South Wales
Noller also notes, "Data for trace elements in mine waste rock is not given, although it is indicated that arsenic levels are high. This data should be made public. Waste rock emplacement is close to Lake Cowal and seepage may reach Lake Cowal.” Noller concludes that, "The role and impact of heavy metals in Lake Cowal which may be associated with natural mineralisation is not understood. As the waste rock has the potential to transfer heavy metals to the lake via seepage, these processed need to be understoond.”


BARRICK-HOMESTAKE GOLD - see Barrick in the news

Barrick Gold is currently carrying out extensive "advanced feasibility" exploration drilling at Lake Cowal. Barrick has applied for a Mining Lease from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) but must await for resolution with Native Title claimants before the Mining Lease can be granted. The Environmental Protection Authority must also issue a licence before mining activities can commence.

Barrick Gold is the world’s second largest gold producer. Barrick's head office is located in Toronto, Canada. In Australia, the office is located in Perth, West Australia.

Barrick currently faces a number of challenges to its reputations including a share price that has dropped 13 percent in the last year while the price of gold has surged to a six year high.

In January, New Orlean's Blanchard and Co. filed an antitrust lawsuit against Barrick Gold Corp. accusing Barrick of suppressing gold prices in the past to profit by short-selling and acquiring mines on the cheap.

Barrick also faces a US$41 million income tax assessment by Peru based on an audit of the company's Pierina mine for fiscal 1999 and 2000.

And in Chile, a dozen citizens have accused 11 foreign mining companies, including Barrick Gold of causing "moral harm" and "damage to the patrimony" of Chile.

There are also ongoing allegations against Barrick of miners being killed in Tanzania.




The Coalition is working to further the protection of Lake Cowal and surrounds by halting the proposed Cowal Gold Project’.

The Coalition includes over 40 groups worldwide as Campaign Supporters plus 21 member groups in Australia including Friends of the Earth Australia, Nature Conservation Council, Birds Australia, Central West Environment Council, Mineral Policy Institute and The NSW Greens. Campaign Supporters include The World Conservation Union (IUCN) Sri Lanka, World Wildlife Fund Bolivia and a number of non-profit groups worldwide from east and west Europe, Soviet Union, Asia and South America.




Albury Wodonga Environment Centre
Big Scrub (Lismore)
Birds Australia
Central West Branch TWS (Orange)
Central West Environment Council
Clarence Environment Centre (Grafton)
The Coalition to End Open Cut Gold Mining - Victoria
Friends of the Earth – Australia
The Greens NSW (Sydney)
Humane Society International – Australia
Mineral Policy Institute (Sydney)
Mission Beach Environmental Management Group Inc. (Queensland)
Mooka Traditional Owners Council Inc.
Mountains Environmentalists Collective (Blackheath, NSW)
Mudgee District Environment Group (Mudgee, NSW)
Nature Conservation Council (Sydney)
Nimbin Environment Centre (Nimbin)
Rainforest Information (Centre Lismore)
SOS Bergama Collective, (Sydney, NSW)
Timbarra Café/ Timbarra Action Group
Western Region Environment Centre (Werribee, Melbourne, Victoria)



Midwest Treaty Network (Wisconsin)
Coecoceiba-Friends of the Earth Costa Rica - Isaac Rojas
Project Underground – (California)
Global Response - (Colorado)
The Committee for Struggle against Gold Mining in Halkidiki, Greece
WOLF Forest Protection Movement (Slovakia)
Green Perspective Foundation (Slovakia)
Groundwork – Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
JATAM -Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network
Friends of the Earth International's Campaign on the Environmental and
Social Impacts of Mining - Gabriel Rivas-Ducca
IUCN Sri Lanka
Institute for the Protection of Nature of Serbia
PROVITA (Caracas, Venezuela)
Earth Justice Movement (South Africa)
Cloud Forest Institute, California/Instituto del Bosque Nublado, Ecuador
Australian Special Interest Tours – (Sydney, NSW)
Ecology North – (Yellowknife, Northern Territories, Canada)
Ukrainian Birdwatching Centre (Ukraine)
University of the West Indies Biological Society, Trinidad & Tobago
The Azov-Black Sea Ornithological Station
Western-Ukrainian Ornithological Station
Western Branch of the Ukrainian Ornithological Society
The Benedykt Dybowsky Zoological Museum, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv
WWF Bolivia
SAPAD SENEGAL, Fagaru Centre
Native Forest Network Southern Hemisphere (Tasmania)
Environment Centre of the Northern Territory (Australia)
Capricorn Conservation Council (Queensland, Australia)
Climate Change Action Group (Queensland, Australia)
Rainforest Concern (United Kingdom/Ecuador)
Second Edition – Books and Clothing (Pambula, NSW, Australia)
Sustainable Ecological Alternatives for Living (Kinmount, ON, Canada)
Sierra Club of Canada
Workshop for All Beings – Poland
Gesellschaft fuer bedrohte Voelker / Society for Threatened Peoples – Germany
E. F Schumacher Society – Germany
Commonground – Victoria, Australia
Altai regional Public Fund For the 21st Century
Ecology Action Sydney, Australia
Mirrilingki Spirituality Centre, (Warmun, West Australia)
Mines,Minerals & PEOPLE (India)
Earthlights IRC Network (New Zealand)
Friends of Kapululangu Women's Law & Culture Centre (Northcote, VI, Australia)
NGO Environmental Watch Group, PNG
Friends of Oolong (NSW)
Great Basin Mine Watch (Reno NV)
Wyong Terrestrial Orchid Research(NSW)
Whale Call Inc. (int'l based NSW)