SYDNEY Dec 10 Australia approved on Tuesday
major dredging work to expand a coal shipping port adjacent to
the Great Barrier Reef in a bid to attract more coal mining.
The nod for further dredging at the Abbot Point port follows
agreements not to dispose of up to 12 million cubic metres of
waste inside the reef and instead use the material for land
The expansion of the coal port would see four new coal
terminals constructed to provide extra annual capacity of 120
million tonnes. It would make Abbot Point one of the world's
largest coal ports, moving 300 million tonnes annually.
It would also support developments in Australia's coal-rich
Bowen, Surat, and Galilee basins, holding some of the world's
most abundant coal reserves.
Australia's environment minister Greg Hunt said the amount
of dredging allowed had been reduced to 3 million cubic metres
from up to 38 million proposed previously to better protect the
"Some of the strictest conditions in Australian history have
been placed on these projects to ensure that any impacts are
avoided, mitigated or offset," Hunt said.
But environmentalists said any dredging will damage the
"Dredging and dumping on this scale is a body blow to an
already fragile reef," said Felicity Wishart, Barrier Reef
Campaign Director for the Australian Marine Conservation
CHALLENGES DERAIL COAL PLANS
An expansion of port facilities have long been deemed
necessary to open up additional coal fields.
Ambitious plans to develop coal mines in the Galilee Basin,
which sits in the outback 500 miles from the nearest port, have
been derailed by weak coal prices and infrastructure challenges.
Mines under consideration in the Galilee Basin include GVK
Power & Infrastructure's 30 million tonne per year
Kevin's Corner mine.
GVK is also developing the Alpha Coal mine in a joint
venture with billionaire Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting.
Others include China First, a 40-million-tonnes-per-year
thermal coal mine, and projects by India's Adani Enterprises
and Bandanna Energy.
The government also gave its go-ahead for a liquefied
natural gas conversion plant and pipeline on Curtis Island
roughly 600 kms (375 miles) south of Abbot Point to support a
proposal by Arrow Energy to exploit coal seam gas
reserves in the Surat and Bowen Basins.
The Arrow LNG plant, however, is widely expected by analysts
and industry insiders to be a prime candidate for scrapping as
Royal Dutch Shell, which is partnering the project with
PetroChina, tries to rein in investment plans.