News / Asia

Coral or Coal Decision Looms for Australia's Great Barrier Reef

FILE - Corals and fish are seen at Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
FILE - Corals and fish are seen at Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
Reuters
Australia's Great Barrier Reef watchdog is to decide by Friday whether to allow millions of cubic meters of dredged mud to be dumped near the fragile reef to create the world's biggest coal port and possibly unlock $28 billion in coal projects.
 
A dumping permit would allow a major expansion of the port of Abbot Point for two Indian firms and Australian billionaire miner Gina Rinehart, who together have $16 billion worth of coal projects in the untapped, inland Galilee Basin.
        
The Galilee Basin could double Australia's thermal coal exports and see it overtake Indonesia as the world's top coal exporter, further fuelling China's power plants and steel mills that have underpinned Australia's decade-long mining boom.
 
If the permit is not granted, it would add to uncertainty over $28 billion in proposed Galilee Basin projects. The projects have already been delayed due to difficulty raising funds with coal prices down.
      
The plan, which has sparked protests from environmentalists and scientists who fear the sensitive marine park will be damaged by the dumping and an expanded port, would nearly double shipping traffic through the reef and increase the risk of accidents.
 
“The corals could stop growing or potentially die, depending on how long the mud stays there,” said Louise Matthieson, a campaigner for Greenpeace Australia.
 
Enough mud will be dredged from Abbot Point, that if dumped on land, it would be bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza.
 
Approval to dump 3 million cubic meters of mud within the marine park could place at risk the World Heritage Site listing of the Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia's major tourism draws with an estimated economic value of $5.7 billion.
 
World Heritage Site listing at risk
 
UNESCO, which awarded the reef its heritage listing, last year postponed a decision to June 2014 on whether to put the Great Barrier Reef on its “in danger” list or even cancel its World Heritage Site listing. It is awaiting a report from the national government on steps taken to address its concerns.
 
Australia's conservative government, elected last September, has already approved limited dredging to deepen Abbot Point on the northeast coast to spur development of coal resources.
 
However, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, an independent government agency charged with protecting the reef, needs to issue a permit to North Queensland Bulk Ports Corp to dump its dredged mud within the marine park.
 
In 2006, the authority allowed triple the amount of dredging waste from the port of Hay Point to be dumped in the reef.
 
The North Queensland Bulk Ports Corp reported that there have been no adverse effects from the Hay Point dumping.
 
Green groups fear political pressure to allow the Abbot Point dumping will be too great to resist; the Queensland state government is keen to expand ports.
 
“The real politics of the situation is they have a new environment minister who expects them to toe the line,” Matthieson said.
 
The Abbot Point expansion would add two new terminals for Adani Enterprise's and GVK-Hancock, a joint venture between India's GVK conglomerate and Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting, which have long term plans to export a total of 120 million tons of coal annually.
 
Plans for a third new coal terminal at Abbot Point are on hold after BHP Billiton, Australia's biggest exporter of coal for steel mills, canceled a port project as it cut capital spending as coal prices fell.
 
If allowed, North Queensland Bulk Ports Corp plans to conduct the dredging in two or three campaigns, spread out over five years. However, the dredging is unlikely to start anytime soon, because the disposal site has yet to be designated and because Adani and GVK-Hancock have yet to line up funding.
 
“What would be a travesty is if they went ahead with the dredging and the companies didn't build the terminals,” said Felicity Wishart, Barrier Reef Campaign director for the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More