Save Lake Cowal: the sacred heartland of the Wiradjuri Nation
Every major gold rush has meant death and devastation for local people at the hands of fortune-seekers. It is now estimated that 50% of gold produced in the next 20 years will come from Indigenous Peoples lands. The fight to save Lake Cowal from the hands of the worlds largest gold producer, Barrick Gold is no exception.
Lake Cowal is the largest inland lake in New South Wales, Australia, and the sacred heartland of the Wiradjuri Nation. It has been a site of ceremony and gatherings for over 4000 years. There are thousands upon thousands of artefacts and relics at the Lake Cowal site that are a testimony to the longevity of traditional living in the area.
Barrick Gold and its predecessors ignored instructions from Wiradjuri Traditional Owners from the region, many of whom have declared their opposition to the Lake Cowal gold mine project and demanded that the cultural objects, including marked trees and thousands of ancient stone artefacts, be left where they are.
To clear the way for the mine, Barrick desecrated the sacred ground and felled river red gum trees and laid water pipes and an electric transmission line. Dozens of trees that sheltered Wiradjuri people from the elements for hundreds of years and held historic markings of generations have been eradicated.
Many artefacts on site remain vulnerable or have been damaged or destroyed as Traditional Owners have not been given an opportunity to collect them.
The artefacts hold individual significance, but more importantly, they are parts of a larger landscape of spiritual significance, and piecemeal collection compromises the integrity of the whole site. A few Wiradjuri sites in the area have been dated to between 2000 and 4000 years old, making them contemporaries of the Egyptian pyramids. Much more archaeological work, however, needs to be done and, according to the Wiradjuri, much older dates are likely as Lake Cowal is a very ancient lake. Archaeologists and assistants working for Barrick have reputedly collected more than 10 000 Aboriginal stone artefacts from the mining lease as well as removing a number of highly significant Aboriginal scarred trees.
To learn more about the Wiradjuri Nation and their ongoing struggle against the world’s largest gold mining corporation see: