Save The Reef… from coal

Feature Story - 29 February, 2012
In our campaign to stop dangerous climate change, Greenpeace is taking on one of the most urgent issues facing our nation: the enormous expansion of coal mining and coal exports. Not only does it spell disaster for our climate but it threatens one of Australia’s most precious treasures, the Great Barrier Reef.

While the reef has been under pressure for years, it is now facing a devastating new threat. Today we are releasing a new report that documents the vast scale and impact of the coal industry’s plans in and near the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

The pending coal boom spells disaster for our unique and ecologically sensitive reef and for our climate.

The coal boom

The Galilee Basin in the heart of Queensland is the proposed site for a series of mega mines that could see Australia’s coal exports more than double within a decade. An enormous coal mine means enormous amounts of carbon pollution and supporting infrastructure. We are on the brink of turning the whole Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area into a massive industrial estate. The expansion plans include:

- Port infrastructure

Major new infrastructure is proposed along almost the entire length of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area – from Gladstone to Cape York. These projects will devastate significant areas of Queensland’s coastline both on and offshore. One port, Abbott Point, would become the largest coal export port in the world, nearly three times larger than any other on the planet.

- Ship traffic

Up to 10,000 coal ships would travel through the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area by the end of the decade. This compares to less than 2000 in 2011. An average of two accidents has occurred every year since 1985. More ships mean more pollution, more spills, more groundings and more collisions.

- Dredging

For coal ships to access the huge ports, millions of tonnes of sea floor will need to be dredged from the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The proposed and approved dredging is the equivalent of taking enough material to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground 67 times. Dredging will destroy vital marine habitat, including for endangered Loggerhead and Olive Ridley turtles.

Click on the image to view the infographic on a larger scale.

The impact

- On our economy

The mining boom is already driving up the Australian dollar and having negative impacts on manufacturing, tourism, agriculture and other industries. The Environmental Impact Statement for Clive Palmer’s ‘China First’ mine openly states that the mine would destroy over 2000 manufacturing jobs in Queensland alone.

- On our environment

Turning a sensitive and ecologically important area into an industrial zone has obvious enormous environmental consequences. The reef took millions of years to form, but it risks being trashed in the blink of an eye. Coal is also a major cause of climate change, which is killing the reef.

The opportunity

The guardians of World Heritage – UNESCO – arrive in Australia next week to investigate impacts on the reef. In response, the Queensland and Australian Governments will conduct an 18-month ‘strategic assessment’ of the reef. But it looks like the world’s largest coal port and huge developments in the World Heritage area may be approved before the assessment is even finished.

We need to act now before it’s too late.

The Great Barrier Reef is not an industrial playground for mining barons. It is Australia’s legacy and must be safeguarded for future generations.

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