Speaking out on cyanide

Around 6000 tonnes of one of the most deadly substances on earth has begun chugging its way through Northern Rivers towns like Kyogle and Casino each year, destined for Barrick Golds mine at Lake Cowal.

The Sydney-Brisbane rail line has become a main transport route for cyanide manufactured by Orica in Queensland for the gold mining industry in many areas of Australia. Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon has called for communities along the cyanide transport route to be informed of the shipments and for local emergency services to be upgraded so they can cope with any accident.

Environmental activist Graeme Dunstan of Peacebus.com will be holding a Cyanide Watch SpeakOut near the Casino Post Office this Friday, July 7, from 11am.

We are calling for political accountability for the cyanide hazard, a ban on cyanide gold mining and an end to the transport of bulk cyanide by road, rail and sea, he said.

Mr Dunstan said that ingestion of just one gram of cyanide was enough to kill an adult, and said a 1999 cyanide spill in Romania killed aquatic life along 1000km of the Tizer-Danube rivers.

Closer to home, a freight train carrying 120 tonnes of cyanide bound for Kalgoolie derailed after colliding with a semi-trailer near Condobolin in 1992. Around 42 tonnes of cyanide pellets spilled from one of the derailed wagons. Homes in a three kilometre radius were evacuated and the clean-up involved fire brigade volunteers and other emergency services for 10 days.

Orica group manager of corporate affairs, John Fetter, said UN best practice regulations for transporting dangerous goods were always adhered to.

The operation is in its fourth month now and nobody living near the line has even noticed it, he said.

But Lee Rhiannon hit back, saying other countries had recognised the dangers of transporting cyanide.

With 6000 tonnes of cyanide travelling this route every year there is a grave danger of a poisonous spill, she said. The US state of Montana had 62 cyanide spills and leaks between 1982 and 1998 before finally banning this kind of mining. Lets learn from that experience and not repeat those mistakes.

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