Australia approves major coal port expansion on reef

December 10, 2013
This undated file photo released by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on April 23, 2009 shows a bleached section of Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Australia gave the green light to a major coal port expansion for India's Adani Group on the Great Barrier Reef coast Tuesday under what were described as some of the nation's strictest-ever environmental conditions.

But conservation groups condemned the move, despite government reassurances.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said he had placed 95 restrictions on the deep-water Abbot Point development in northern Queensland state, including a limitation on seabed dredging to three million cubic metres instead of the 38 million sought.

"As federal environment minister, one of my key responsibilities is to ensure ecologically sustainable development and maintaining the health of the Great Barrier Reef," Hunt said in a statement announcing the approval.

"Some of the strictest conditions in Australian history have been placed on these projects to ensure that any impacts are avoided, mitigated or offset."

But the approval was criticised by environment campaigners, with the Greens party accusing the conservative government of being in "climate denial".

"(Prime Minister) Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt risk the Great Barrier Reef being listed as World Heritage in danger. Blow for reef, tourism and jobs," Greens leader Christine Milne tweeted.

Adani's proposed expansion at Abbot Point will lift the port's export capacity by 70 percent, despite easing demand as China slows and extra supply comes online, driving the price of coal down by some 20 percent since 2010.

The conditions require that sediment entering the Barrier Reef marine park be reduced by 150 percent over the long term—a "net benefit" to water quality—and that Aus$89 million ($81 million) be contributed to reef conservation programmes and specific measures observed to protect marine flora and fauna, Hunt said.

Separately, Hunt said he had approved a major liquefied natural gas plant and transmission pipeline at Curtis Island, which is also within the reef marine park, for Australia's Arrow Energy under 53 .

He stressed that reef health was key to his considerations, with Canberra on notice from UNESCO that a downgrade could be on the cards next year without action to limit rampant coastal and resources development.

"It is important to note that each of these sites is already heavily industrialised and that the (approval) processes were highly advanced at the change of government (in September)," Hunt said.

"The conditions I have put in place for these projects will result in an improvement in water quality and strengthen the Australian government's approach to meeting the challenges confronting the reef into the future."

Explore further: Great Barrier Reef heading for danger: UNESCO

Related Stories

Great Barrier Reef heading for danger: UNESCO

June 2, 2012

UNESCO on Saturday urged decisive action from Australia to protect the Great Barrier Reef from a gas and mining boom, warning it risked being put on its list of world heritage sites deemed "in danger".

Australia failing UNESCO demands on Barrier Reef

February 1, 2013

Australia insisted Friday that protecting the Great Barrier Reef was a top priority, but conservationists WWF said not enough had been done to prevent UNESCO deeming it a world heritage site "in danger".

Campaign to save Barrier Reef from industry

April 28, 2013

Conservationists accused Australia of failing to protect the Great Barrier Reef from massive industrial development as they launched a multi-million dollar campaign to drum up awareness.

Australia pledges more cash to battle reef starfish

July 18, 2013

Australia pledged another Aus$5 million (US$4.6 million) to the fight against a predatory starfish devastating the iconic Great Barrier Reef Thursday, revealing 100,000 of the creatures had been wiped out so far.

Recommended for you

Climate scientist hits out at IPCC projections

October 13, 2015

As a new chairman is appointed to the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (IPCC) a University of Manchester climate expert has said headline projections from the organisation about future warming are 'wildly over optimistic.'

'Bridge' fuel may escalate atmospheric greenhouse gas

October 13, 2015

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests there has been a decline in measurable atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use in the U.S. for the past seven years, a Cornell scientist says ...

Study sees powerful winds carving away Antarctic snow

October 13, 2015

A new study has found that powerful winds are removing massive amounts of snow from parts of Antarctica, potentially boosting estimates of how much the continent might contribute to sea level. Up to now, scientists had thought ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.