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Australia approves dumping dredged sediment near Great Barrier Reef

Originally published on January 31, 2014


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Australia's independent government agency charged with overseeing the protection of the Great Barrier Reef has approved a measure to dispose millions of cubic meters of dredged sediment near the protected site. The approval paves the way for the port near Abbot Point to be expanded to allow billions of dollars in coal projects to go forward.


The disposal site is located approximately 25 km (16 miles) east-north-east of the Abbot Point port, which could see double the amount of ships and an extra 70-million tonnes of coal travel through the area, which is also a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. The project is worth between $1.4 billion and $2.8 billion in coal exports for two Indian firms and Australian billionaire miner Gina Rinehart. Together, the conglomerates have $16 billion worth of coal projects in the inland Galilee Basin, according to Reuters.


The amount of material dredged up from an expansion would equal roughly three million cubic meters, a pile larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza. However, authorities say the seafloor of the disposal site consists of sand, silt and clay, and does not contain coral reefs or seagrass beds.


The marine park authority has imposed strict conditions on the dumping permit, including no environmental, cultural or heritage damage to areas beyond 20 km (12 miles) from the disposal site.


The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage-listed site and one of Australia's top tourist destinations, generating an estimated $5.7 billion annually.


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