Reef authorities approve coal waste dumping in Great Barrier Reef

by Cassady Craighill

January 31, 2014

Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest on the Queensland coast. Already under stress from the impacts of climate change such as ocean acidification and temperature rise, the Great Barrier Reef is now under further threat from Australia's coal boom. Inland coal mines will transport the coal to shipping ports along the Queensland coast to be shipped through the Reef resulting in a massive increase in shipping through the World Heritage area. The proposed developments prompted the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisations (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee to consider placing the GBR on the World Heritage in Danger list. Greenpeace is calling for a moratorium on all developments in the region until a Strategic Assessment of the impacts of the developments has been completed.

© Darren Jew / Greenpeace

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authoritys approval for dumping of dredge spoil at Abbot Point is a blow for the Reef, but the campaign doesnt end here! Conditions on the approval mean dredging is unlikely to start until 2015, giving us time to pressure the true villains behind the dredging plans like multinational coal company Adani Mining.

Australians are rightly angry about the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authoritys (GBRMPA) decision to approve the dumping of 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoil in the Reef Marine Park near Abbot Point in north Queensland. The Authoritys charter says our fundamental obligation is to protect the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the World Heritage Area.

Yet theyve given permission for coal companies to dump dredging waste inside the Marine Park, just 10km from the fringing reefs of Holbourne Island National Park and close to a sunken World War Two plane wreck.

This flies in the face of opposition from tens of thousands of Australians who contacted the Authority urging them to reject the plan, and ignores the concerns of local fishermen and tourism operators, worried about the impact on their livelihoods. GBRMPA is normally a good guardian of the reef, so what could have convinced them to make such a bad decision?

You can bet that the multi-national coal companies behind the expansion of the Abbot Point coal port have been lobbying hard to get their way.

The biggest culprit is Adani, an Indian corporation that wants to build Australias biggest coal mine in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland, and needs the dredging to allow huge coal ships to access their proposed new coal terminal at Abbot Point to send their coal overseas.

Right now, Adani is pushing for approval of its proposed Carmichael coal mine, approximately 300km south-west of Abbot Point. This mega-mine would destroy endangered finch habitat, drain precious water supplies and dig up 40 mega-tonnes of coal each year. The mine would be linked to the coast by a new railway line, crossing farmland and floodplains, and spreading toxic coal dust. The coal will be loaded into ships at the new Terminal Zero jetty at Abbot Point, with huge coal stockpiles and machinery wedged between the delicate Caley Valley wetlands and a turtle-nesting beach, less than 100m away.

Click on the image to see the full infographic

Adani Info

Exporting such a massive volume of coal would require around more 320 ships to cross the Great Barrier Reef every year, increasing the chance of shipping accidents.

Most of the coal would be burned at new power plants in India, creating around 86 million tonnes of carbon pollution every year, more than many small countries produce in total. Asthis articleexplains, polluting coal-fired power is not the way to meet the electricity needs of Indias poor.

Thats why Greenpeace is urging our supporters to put the pressure on Adani Mining, to show them that we know whos really to blame for the damage that dredging will do to the Great Barrier Reef.

They say every cloud has a silver lining, and theres some good news in GBRMPAs dumping approval.

The conditions they have imposed require the ports managers to do further studies on the potential impacts of dumping the dredge spoil so close to fringing reefs and the Catalina plane wreck. Since dredging can only begin during the northern dry season (March to June) this is likely to slow down the project so much that dredging wont get underway until 2015. This is another massive delay for companies like Adani, whose Galilee coal projects are already seriously behind schedule.

That gives us time. Time to build public opposition to dredging in our precious reef, to keep the pressure on politicians, but most importantly, to expose Adani and the other coal companies behind this dreadful plan, and convince financial institutions NOT to finance such a destructive development.

Cassady Craighill

By Cassady Craighill

Cassady is a media officer for Greenpeace USA based on the East Coast. She covers climate change and energy, particularly how both issues relate to the Trump administration.

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