MAC: Mines and Communities

Australian Government approves Abbot Point coal terminal expansion

Published by MAC on 2015-12-27
Source: Mining.com, Guardian (2015-12-22)

Australia ok’s vast coal port expansion near Great Barrier Reef

Cecilia Jamasmie

Mining.com

22 December 2015

Australia's federal government has formally approved a plan to build the world's largest coal terminal at Abbot Point in northern Queensland, just 19 kilometers (12 miles) from the Great Barrier Reef.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the project could go ahead, but only under strict conditions aimed at protecting the reef marine park from the 1.1 million cubic metres of sludge that will be dredged to create the port.

All sludge dug up during dredging would have to be disposed of on land rather than at sea, as was originally planned.

The dredge-dumping rules and water-quality guarantees included in the conditions are designed partly to allay concerns raised by the United Nations World Heritage Committee, which after wavering decided in July not to list the reef as an “in danger” site. It remains on UNESCO’s watch list.

The approved expansion will ease coal exports from proposed mining projects in the Galilee Basin, such as Adani's $12 billion Carmichael mine, which is Australia's biggest mining project.

Once finished, it will raise coal exports from 50 million tonnes a year to 120 million tonnes, according to information on the project from a Queensland government website.

Environmentalists have argued that any expansion at Abbot Point would endanger the World Heritage-listed reef and destroy habitats.

Supporters have said the project would provide thousands of jobs and pump millions into the local economy.


Abbot Point coal terminal expansion given approval by Greg Hunt

Federal environment minister gives green light for dredging and disposal of spoil to create one of the world’s largest coal ports, which would be linked to the proposed $16bn Carmichael coalmine

Shalailah Medhora

The Guardian (UK)

22 December 2015

The federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, has given the green light to expanding the Abbot point coal terminal in northern Queensland, on the condition that the dredge spoils are properly disposed of.

The approval, granted by the Department of Environment on Monday, lists a number of strict conditions that the project must fulfil before going ahead, including how and where the sediment can be moved.

About 1.1m cubic metres of dredge spoil from the project would be dumped in nearby industrial land, rather than in the Great Barrier Reef marine park as originally proposed.

Australia on the spot over Adani mine and funding of Attenborough reef series
Approving the terminal’s expansion would allow coal from other projects, like Adani’s Carmichael mine, to be shipped for export.

“All dredge material will be placed onshore on existing industrial land. No dredge material will be placed in the World Heritage Area or the Caley Valley Wetlands,” a spokeswoman for Hunt said. “The port area is at least 20kms from any coral reef and no coral reef will be impacted.”

The spokeswoman said any changes to the project lie in the hands of Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government.

“This project was proposed and developed by the Queensland government. Further approvals are required from the Queensland government,” she said.

The Greens said the project was dangerous to the environment and a waste of money.

“This destruction on behalf of big mining companies like Adani will be paid for by the state Labor government at the expense of Queensland taxpayers,” Greens deputy leader, Larissa Waters, said. “The federal Liberal and state Labor governments are teaming up to do Adani’s dirty work to turn our Great Barrier Reef into a highway for coal ships to cook the planet.”

Conservationists have also condemned the decision to let the project go ahead.

“Thousands of tonnes of seafloor will be torn up and dumped next to the internationally significant Caley Valley wetlands. Sea grasses which feed dugongs and turtles will be torn up for the coal industry,” Imogen Zethoven from the Australian Maritime Conservation Society, said. “Hundreds more coal ships will plough through the reef every year.”

Coal from Carmichael mine 'will create more annual emissions than New York'
The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) said the alternative proposed for disposing of the sediment is not much better than dumping it at sea.

“Although we’re pleased that the dredge spoil can no longer be dumped at sea, it’s not appropriate to place it beside an internationally significant wetland, when there are better locations available further inland,” spokeswoman Louise Matthiesson said.

Advocacy organisation, 350.org, said the decision makes a mockery of Australia’s pledge at the recent Paris climate conference to limit global warming.

“The Turnbull government can’t seriously sign on to deals which limit climate damage to 2 degrees and then give a green light to massive coal export projects which guarantee that the 2 degree target can never be met,” community campaigner, Moira Williams, said. “The Abbot Point project is a gateway for foreign mining companies to unlock one of the largest stores of climate-wrecking carbon on the planet – the Galilee Basin coal mines.”

“It’s ludicrous that Hunt has given the tick to a project which has no money, no social license, is universally hated, will wreck one of the greatest wonders of the natural world and which has been rejected by most of the world’s largest banks,” Williams said.

“With coal prices at an all time low, support for climate action and protecting the Great Barrier Reef at an all time high, the Turnbull government is treading a dangerous line in approving this climate and reef-wrecking mega coal project. Their actions will come back to bite them at the ballot box next year,” she said.

 

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