Our August 2014 post on Abbot Point reported on the proposal to dump dredging spoils in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. This is an update.
Adani holds a 99-year lease of the Abbot Point Coal Terminal. These Greenpeace maps (#1 & #2) indicate the scale of the proposed development. Adani wants to proceed with expansion plans and add two additional offshore berths. It has proposed an alternative dumping site for the dredging spoils: the nearby Caley Valley wetlands. After investigation and consultation, Queensland DSDIP has referred the proposal to the Commonwealth Government for consideration.
From the perspective of minimising risk to coral reefs, terrestrial dumping is clearly better. However, it does not address concerns about sediment plumes from the dredging itself, or risks associated with release of coal dust and increased movement of coal ships through the World Heritage Area.
The selection of the Caley Valley dumping site raises other environmental concerns, relating to the loss of important wetlands and impact on migratory birds. A 2012 report described it as the least desirable of seven possible options – see ABC News.
DSDIP says the onshore placement ponds will impact only a small area of the wetlands (between 2 and 3 percent) and notes that a program of rehabilitation and conservation is proposed. See DSDIP web page.
Conservation groups (e.g. Mackay, GetUp, WWF) are maintaining their campaign to stop all industrial development in the GBR World Heritage Area. The recently-elected Queensland Government has appointed Dr Steven Miles as the first-ever minister with “Great Barrier Reef” in his job title. See Labor’s Plan (PDF), WWF comment and Guardian.
This WWF video provides perspective.