Australia’s beef, sheep and olive exports could be ruined if lead mine is built in New South Wales, inquiry told

Australia’s worldwide reputation for fine wool and beef cattle could be lost if a lead mine is built in New South Wales, an inquiry has been warned.

A state parliamentary committee has held a hearing in Mudgee as part of its investigation into the current and potential impacts on human and environmental health posed by gold, lead, silver and zinc mining

Veterinarian David Parry-Okeden is among 12 witnesses who has given evidence about the Bowdens Silver project, which will unearth lead, silver and zinc near the hamlet of Lue. 

He has warned that livestock, as well as domestic and wild animals, could be poisoned by dust carrying lead. 

“Lead is the most frightening and most emotional poison that we know about in the world,” Dr Parry-Okeden told the hearing. 

“Indonesia just banned our cattle because it was perceived that they had lumpy-skin disease – it was nothing of the kind, but they didn’t hesitate. 

“There is nothing that will bring more disparagement and embarrassment on our country than to have lead in our exports in any form at all,” he said.

“If we had lead in our cattle or in the meat, that export industry would go. Our fine wool, which goes to the fussiest buyers in the world in Italy … they wouldn’t even consider it.”

Dr Parry-Okeden told the inquiry that animals primarily ingest lead by drinking contaminated water.

He also gave examples of horses licking lead-based paint because it is sweet, or birds pecking at lead paint and becoming paralysed and dying. 

He said prevailing winds would mean that lead dust could be carried several hundred kilometres east to the Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley. 

“I don’t believe that there’s the political will in this state or this country at the moment to fight the mining industry because we’re all so addicted to it,” he said.

“We’ve got a coal mine [near Lue] that has been the basis of our economy for some years, but it doesn’t poison the district. 

“I really believe the only answer to this is to embarrass our country through the court of the Hague.”