Lake Cowal

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Lake Cowal
Lake Cowal 2015.JPG
Lake Cowal from the air
LocationNew South Wales
Coordinates33°35′S 147°25′E / 33.583°S 147.417°E / -33.583; 147.417Coordinates: 33°35′S 147°25′E / 33.583°S 147.417°E / -33.583; 147.417
Primary inflowsBland Creek, Lachlan River
Basin countriesAustralia

Lake Cowal is the largest inland lake in New South Wales, Australia. The lake is ephemeral, being fed by the small Bland Creek and by the occasional flooding of the Lachlan River. Despite this, it retains a considerable amount of water in about 70% of years.

Cowal Lake from John Sands 1886 map.[1]


Lake Cowal is situated 47 km North East of West Wyalong and is home to a variety of endangered species. Some of these species include:

The lake is on the Register of the National Estate and in the Directory of Important Wetlands, and it is listed as a Landscape Conservation Area by the National Trust of Australia.

Mineral resources and mining[edit]

The area surrounding the lake is rich in minerals - especially gold - and is currently being mined by Evolution Mining. Barrick Gold sold the Cowal Mine to Evolution Mining in 2015 for AU$550m.[2] There is concern among environmental groups and the local Wiradjuri Aboriginal people that the cyanide used in the mining process prior to 2007 could lead to the contamination of the lake.[citation needed] The area was explored for gold in the 1980s and 1990s by North Limited, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto Group.[3]

The mine has been producing gold since 2006, and produced 238,000 ounces of gold in 2016. The resource is estimated to still contain approximately 5,000,000 troy ounces (160 t) of gold.[3]

Lake Cowal Campaign and Barrick Gold[edit]

The Lake Cowal Gold Mine Project plans[when?] to encompass approximately 26.50 square kilometres. One hundred and eight million tonnes of low to medium grade ore would be excavated from an open cut pit 1 km wide and 325 metres 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.[4]

There was conflict in 2004 between protesters and mining workers over the mining activity taking place on Wiradjuri land. Despite the benefits economically to the town of West Wyalong with increased employment.[citation needed]

Barrick Gold was granted a Section 90 by National Parks and Wildlife. Lake Cowal is known as the heartland of the Wiradjuri nation and is rich in artifacts. Wiradjuri elder Neville "Chappy" Williams led a campaign to save Lake Cowal and the Wiradjuri heartland.[citation needed]

The Lake Cowal Campaign aims to prevent further gold mining by Evolution Mining in the environmentally-fragile area around Lake Cowal and to stop land degradation and possible toxicity problems from the mine and its tailing dams. The Wiradjuri people are being joined in their campaign by various Australian environmentalist groups who formed the Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal initiated by the Rainforest Information Centre and Friends of the Earth Australia.[citation needed]

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 km from the lake. Water would be supplied from a bore in the Bland Creek Paleochannel borefield, 20 km east of the mine site and will use up to 17 megalitres per day.[citation needed]

"Don't desecrate our dreaming site, don't mine our sacred site. I have fought Barrick in the courts for over 2 years, now it's time for us all to work together to stop this disaster waiting to happen." - 'Uncle Chappy', May 2004.


  1. ^ from John Sands, Atlas of Australia 1886.
  2. ^ Validakis, Vicky (25 May 2015). "Barrick Gold sells Cowal Gold mine". Australian Mining. Prime Creative Media. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Cowal". Evolution Mining. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  4. ^ The location of the mine Cowal and gold production until December 2009. Archived 2010-09-20 at the Wayback Machine Barrick Gold, Global Operations, Australia Pacific, Cowal. Acceded 18 September 2010.

External links[edit]