Australia's mining success places Great Barrier Reef in peril

The unprecedented success of Australia's mining sector, which enabled the country to successfully weather the global financial crisis and has triggered a surge in the Aussie dollar, may have caused irreparable damage to the Great Barrier Reef, Australia's most renowned natural wonder and the world's largest coral reef system.

Some scientists claim that the Great Barrier Reef, situated off the coast of Queensland in north-eastern Australia, has already suffered permanent damage due to increased shipping of natural resources, port construction, and offshore gas and oil drilling.

7,000 ships are expected to traverse the reef each year by 2020, compared to 5,000 in 2010, while ports on the Barrier Reef coast currently export 156 million tonnes of coal each year (mtpa), a figure expected to rise to 953 mtpa before the close of the decade, according to AFP.

The United Nations has stepped in, warning of the perils that the Greater Barrier Reef faces as a result of Australia's unchecked mining industry. As reported by MINING.com earlier, UNESCO has called for a ban on the construction of new ports within the reef's vicinity for the next three years.

Queensland's state government has responded to UNESCO's calls with immediate vehemence, declaring itself to be a part of the "coal business" and stating frankly that it would not put environmental preservation before economic development.

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