SYDNEY, Sept 2 Australia will abandon plans to
dump 3 million cubic metres of dredged sand into the Great
Barrier Reef area in its effort to create the world's biggest
coal port, the Australian Financial Review reported on Tuesday.
The fragile reef, which stretches 2,300 km (1,430 miles)
along Australia's east coast, and sprawls over an area half the
size of Texas, was the centrepiece of a campaign by green groups
and tour operators opposing the plan.
They feared that dumping soil 25 km (15 miles) from the reef
would harm delicate corals and seagrasses and potentially double
ship traffic through the area.
The Abbot Point port is being expanded to accommodate $16
billion worth of coal projects planned in the inland Galilee
Basin by two Indian firms, Adani Enterprises and GVK
, and Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart.
On Tuesday, the paper said North Queensland Bulk Ports,
Adani Group and GVK would re-submit a proposal as early as this
week to Environment Minister Greg Hunt offering alternative
dumping sites on land.
The change is designed to defuse controversy over potential
damage to the reef and avoid a court case launched by the North
Queensland Conservation Council, it added.
"If the reports are true, the cheapest, most destructive
option for expanding Abbot Point may have been taken off the
table," said Adam Walters, head of research for environmental
A spokesman for Hunt declined to confirm the newspaper's
report, saying no new proposals had been received yet.
"There was no option available at the time of the decision,"
Hunt told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio on Tuesday. "There
may well be one opening up. It's up to the proponents to submit
it. We haven't seen any documentation."
A spokesman for Adani said the company was open to viable
alternatives to the dredging plan.
"We are committed to ensuring the best options are in place
to ensure this project is achieved, together with the best
possible environmental outcomes," he said.
In January, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
granted a permit for North Queensland Bulk Ports Corp to dump
the dredged material in the park, to deepen Abbot Point for two
terminals planned by Adani and GVK-Hancock.
Adani and GVK have long-term plans to ship a total of 120
million tonnes of coal through the port each year.
Last June, UNESCO's world heritage panel deferred until next
year a decision on whether to designate the 300,000-sq-km reef
as a site in danger.
The reef has the world's largest collection of coral reefs,
with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 types of
mollusc, and is home to threatened species, including the dugong
and large green turtle, the World Heritage list says.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organisation is concerned over the proposed coastal
developments, and has asked Australia for an updated report on
the state of conservation of the reef by next February 1.
(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)