The Australian government has approved the expansion of a port terminal at Abbot Point in Queensland, crucial to investments, including A$10 billion (about Rs 48,000 crore) from the Adani Group, despite warnings from environmentalists that it will damage the fragile Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system.
The Abbot Point port involves dredging 1.1 million cubic metres of spoil near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which will then be disposed off on land. Earlier plans were for at least three million cubic metres of material to be dredged and dumped into waters around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, but it was later abandoned after an outcry.
The approval is subject to 29 conditions, including how and where the sediment can be moved, and will be in effect till January 31, 2031.
The expansion of the port will help in transporting coal from mines in the Galilee basin, including Adani’s A$6.5-billion Carmichael mine. The Adani project has long been opposed by environmentalists.
The Australian government recently approved Adani’s proposal to build the Carmichael mine.
“The expansion of Abbot Point, the lifeblood of Bowen, is key to Adani’s plans to deliver 10,000 direct and indirect jobs and A$22 billion in taxes and royalties to Queensland,” Adani Group said in a statement.
The expansion will create one of the biggest Australian ports capable of handling up to 120 million tonnes of coal per annum.
In October, the Australian government gave conditional clearance to the Adani project, including the development of an offset package and protection of more than 30,000 hectares of habitat.
Earlier, in August, an Australian court revoked the environmental approval given first in July 2014, saying it would impact two species — yakka skink and ornamental snake.
Several analysts and coal sector experts have, however, said that at the current prevailing low prices of coal, the viability of the project could be at stake.