Australia Approves Expansion of Barrier Reef Coal Terminal – by Rob Taylor (Wall Street Journal – December 22, 2015)

CANBERRA, Australia—Australia approved the expansion of a shipping terminal close to the Great Barrier Reef on Tuesday, drawing criticism from environmentalists who say an area of outstanding natural beauty is threatened by the decision.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said he would allow the extension the Abbot Point terminal—used to ship coal to markets in Asia—with 30 conditions to help protect the environment, including a requirement that dredge material be dumped on land instead of in water near the World Heritage-listed reef.

The expanded port will serve one of the world’s largest coal mines that is being developed by Adani Group in Queensland, a state in eastern Australia where the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is also located. The Indian conglomerate aims to use the port to ship as much as 60 million tons of thermal coal annually to its power plants in India.

“The port area is at least 20 kilometers from any coral reef and no coral reef will be impacted,” said a spokeswoman for Mr. Hunt, adding: “All dredge material will be placed onshore on existing industrial land.”

The government of Queensland, which receives an estimated 6 billion Australian dollars (US$4.3 billion) a year from reef tourism, has yet to approve the expansion, but isn’t expected to block it with the government hoping to unlock a new wave of resource projects.

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