Jeff Green | May 15, 2008
Feature Article - May 8, 2008
Back toHomeFeature Article - May 15, 2008 Barrick gold protestors come to ArdochBy Jeff Green
Leaders from aboriginal communities in New South Wales, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Chile paid a visit to Ardoch Algonquin First Nation Honourary Chief Harold Perry this past weekend. They were on their way to Ottawa, where they will be meeting with MPs in a bid to convince them to ask Canada to rein in the worldwide activities of Canadian-owned Barrick Gold Corporation.
The leaders had made presentations to the Annual General Meeting of Barrick late last week. They stopped at Harold Perry’s on their way to Ottawa in order to compare notes and demonstrate solidarity with the Ardoch Algonquins in the Algonquins’ battle to stop uranium exploration on lands that Ardoch claims as traditional territory.
Neville “Chappy” Williams is a Wiradjuri Traditional Owner, who calls Lake Cowal “the sacred heartland of the Wiradjuri nation.” It is also the largest inland lake in New South Wales.
In 1996, the New South Wales government denied a gold mining application at Lake Cowal on environmental grounds, according to the website SaveLakeCowal.org, but after two commissions of enquiry, consent conditions were approved on the eve of an election in 1999.
The mining property eventually passed to Barrick Gold, a major Canadian corporation which is now the largest gold producer in the world. In the spring of 2006, the Lake Cowal gold mine began operating.
Neville Williams said the existence of the mine has meant the “Wiradjuri have not been able to carry on any of our spiritual practices. It uses 17 mega-litres of water a day, in a region that is in the midst of historic drought, and causes large dust storms containing high levels of cyanide.”
When the opportunity came about to join with Aboriginal leaders dealing with similar issues related to Barrick Gold, and to come to the country where Barrick has its headquarters, Neville Williams decided to participate. He said, “It is hard to bear the pain of the destruction of our sacred site. Barrick has ignored our demands to protect cultural objects and the ecological significance of the lake. I feel that what we said fell on some deaf ears. There were people who listened, but it did fall on some deaf ears,” he said.
Jethro Tullin is an indigenous Ipili from the highlands of Papua New Guinea. The Ipili first encountered foreigners in the late 1950s and Barrick’s Porgera mine was established in 1989. According to Jethro Tulli, the mine has meant devastation to the Ipili. “After 17 years, the society is uspide down living in those area. Over 32 people have died from bullets fired by security forces hired by the mine, and at least 20 more have died though landslides. They have turned the country upside, sending tailings down the river system”.
Tullin spoke at the Barrick AGM as well.
Among his statements was the following: “Your mine has destroyed our ancestral land, our sacred places, and our gardens, which we need to feed ourselves. You dump your mine waste directly into our river system directly into our water system contaminating 600 km of river all the way to the sea. You do this, even though you know that it is illegal to dump your waste into rivers in Canada.”
Among the demands of the Porgera Alliance, which Tulin is representing in Canada, are that Barrick pay compensation for environmental damages and move 5,000 Ipili who are living on contaminated land.
Jethro Tulin was able to present his case to the Annual General Meeting of Barrick Gold last week, a webcast of the proceedings did not include his address.
Neville Williams and Jethro Tulin have been joined by Sergio Campusano, a Chilean who is involved with opposition to Barrick’s Pascua Lama mining project in his homeland, where 1,500 indigenous people have been living for thousands of years.
The three leaders are travelling with supporters, and with members of Friends of the Earth (Australia) and the Protest Barrick project.
Jack Lapointe of the Ardoch Algonquins was on hand to greet the contingent at Harold Perry’s house.
“It’s the same story right across the planet. I suppose it’s a blessing that we are not faced with murders and rapes in this country,” he said.
“One of the things they want to do is establish a network of indigenous people around the world to deal with mining. We need to establish these networks, we need to work together. Of course, we support them, we think the Canadian government should tell companies like Barrick that they cannot run roughshod over the world.”
The Ardoch Algonquins will be joining Sakura Saunders from Protest Barrick, and aboriginal leaders from across Ontario in Toronto next week for the days of action at Queens Park between May 26 and 29.
On May 28, in a Toronto courtroom, an application for an appeal of the six-month sentence being served by former Ardoch Algonquin chief Bob Lovelace will be filed. Lovelace was jailed because he refused to tell a Superior Court judge he would not act to block Frontenac Ventures Corporation from drilling test holes for uranium in territory that the Ardoch Algonquins claim aboriginal title to.
In a handwritten submission to the Ontario legislature last week, Lovelace wrote extensively about colonialism, and concluded by saying he intends to begin a fast on May 16.
“I will to be fasting as a political statement or to extract some concession from Ontario. In our culture we fast to
purify our bodies and free our spirits. We fast in anticipation of a vision of things to come and to prepare ourselves to accept a great challenge. If, over the next few weeks, it brings attention to the defence of our community I will welcome the growing interest …” he wrote.
Bob Lovelace is currently incarcerated at the Lindsay Federal prison.