Coal export imperils Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage Status

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, considered one of the world’s preeminent natural wonders, could be deprived of its World Heritage Site status by UNESCO following claims the Queensland government has failed to protect it from the impact of its coal industry.

Mother Jones reports that the proposed construction of coal export facilities along the Queensland coast further threatens the health and integrity of the Great Barrier Reef, raising the level of shipping traffic by nearly double and increasing the risk of collisions and oil spills.

Construction of the facilities would also require dredging of the seabed adjacent to the reefs, which would create sediment contamination and deprive the corals of sunlight on which they partially subsist.

Coal is one of Australia’s key resource exports, and is sold primarily to China which needs the solid fossil fuel to power its economic growth belated industrialization.

Last year UNESCO sent a team to investigate the threat to the Great Barrier Reef posed by the planned coal infrastructure, and drafted recommendations for Australia’s state and federal governments.

Should the UNESCO assessment team feel insufficient measures have been adopted to protect the reef, they could very well deprive it of its status as a World Heritage Site, as has already been done with other sites which have been damaged or compromised.