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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora