Coffs cyanide risk
By UTE SCHULENBERG
CYANIDE is a highly toxic chemical being freighted through the Coffs Coast regularly, placing people and the environment at risk.
This is the message activist Graeme Dunstan is spreading with his Cyanide Watch campaign, which has been following cyanide's transport route from Gladstone in Queensland to Lake Cowel in western NSW.
"The cyanide is used to extract gold from low grade ores at mines like Lake Cowel," Mr Dunstan said.
"It is a cheap method of extraction, partly because the contaminated water is not cleaned but simply siphoned into tailings ponds leaving a poisonous sludge for future generations."
Mr Dunstan said most people are not aware of the toxic freight passing through their communities regularly.
"The NSW Government signed off on the transport route of this hazardous chemi- cal without consulting the public.
"Cyanide spills and cyanide kills. The issue here is clean water. People should be asking the government how much cyanide is passing through Coffs Harbour by rail, how safe is it, and how prepared the emergency services are to deal with a major spill?"
He said the world had witnessed the 1999 cyanide spill in Romania, which killed aquatic life along 1000km of the TizerDanube rivers.
In Bellingen yesterday a number of locals dropped by Mr Dunstan's riverbank protest.
Resident Caroline Bell said she had certainly not been aware of the bulk transport.
"We should be able to lead a normal life without the threat of our world being poisoned," Ms Bell said.
Acting MNC NSW Fire Brigade zone commander, Phil Treacy, said the brigade was aware of toxic chemicals passing through the area and had the resources to manage a spill.