Australia Great Barrier Reef dredge dumping plan approved

Fish at the Great Barrier Reef The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral structure and home to rich marine life

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Australian authorities have approved a project to dump dredged sediment in the Great Barrier Reef marine park as part of a project to create one of the world's biggest coal ports.

The decision was made by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Scientists had urged it not to back the project, saying the sediment could smother or poison coral.

Several companies want to use the Abbot Point port to export coal reserves from the Galilee Basin area.

Abbot Point lies south of Townsville on the Queensland coast.

Late last year, the government approved an application for the coal terminal to be expanded. The dredging is needed to allow ships into the port.

'Strict controls'

The approved disposal site for the dredged sediment is located approximately 25km (16 miles) east-north-east of the port, GBRMPA said in a statement.

"It's important to note the seafloor of the approved disposal area consists of sand, silt and clay and does not contain coral reefs or seagrass beds," it said.

The disposal operation would be "subject to strict environmental conditions", it added.

Map showing the location of the sediment disposal site

Authority Chairman Dr Russell Reichelt said the decision reflected "the agency's view that port development along the Great Barrier Reef coastline should be limited to existing ports".

"As a deepwater port that has been in operation for nearly 30 years, Abbot Point is better placed than other ports along the Great Barrier Reef coastline to undertake expansion as the capital and maintenance dredging required will be significantly less than what would be required in other areas."

Earlier this month, 233 scientists signed a letter to GBRMPA urging it to reject the plan, and environmental groups condemned the decision.

"This go-ahead for dumping is one more body blow for the reef, which further threatens marine life, its World Heritage status and Australia's tourism and fishing industries," Greenpeace Reef Campaigner Louise Matthiesson said in a statement.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral structure, rich in marine life. It stretches for more than 2,600km (1,680 miles) along Australia's eastern coast.

Last year UNESCO warned that it could be placed on the World Heritage list of sites in danger, unless action was taken to improve water quality.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    A balanced and thought through decision by the GBRMPA.
    People need to understand the detail and strict conditions of this decision, and not just sit thousands of miles away, and give a their left wing liberal opinion.
    There no way the Reef will be damaged. Look at the distance away where the silt will be dropped.
    Please do not pass an ill informed general opinion. Leave it to the local experts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Here's a thought, dumping the dredged debris in the ocean is bad. However, the sediment will be rich in nutrients and salts. Australia has a large farming industry yet also large areas of barren land where little grows. Does anyone else think that instead of clouding the water with this material, perhaps it would be worth investigating if when combined with desert soil it could aid fertility?

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Of course the Australians could sell their coal derived energy in the form of methanol fuel, by running a coal to liquids program of their own at an inland facility and then piping the liquid methanol to an offshore terminal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    As an Australian I'd really like to apologise for what is happening. This isn't what all Aussies want & I am personally shocked to hear of this news. One can only hope not too much damage is done, but I fear this won't be the case.

    & today our gov also reported huge pieces of world heritage rainforest will now be 'open for business' ie/ logging.. Again I am shocked. I hate our prime minister.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Amount being dredged is a cube 145 metres by 145 metres by 145 metres. The Great Barrier Reef is 1,680 miles long covering an area 50% larger than New Zealand. I do not think this miniscule amount will have much if any effect on the Reef.


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