Coal port dredging, dumping threat to Great Barrier Reef

Another fight over industrial and mining development in areas near Australia's Great Barrier Reef, a 345,400 square kilometer marine park along the country's eastern coast, has broken out after approvals were given that would enable the expansion of a major coal port.

The Abbot Point coal port in northern Queensland will service among others the Alpha Coal project in the Galilee basin owned by Australia's riches woman Gina Rinehart and India's GVK group.

On Friday, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority approved a permit for the state-owned coal terminal operator to dump as much as 3 million cubic meters of dredged sediment inside the park.

The Huffington Post reports that despite strict conditions and close monitoring should reduce the impact, environment groups are not satisfied:

"But outraged conservationists say the already fragile reef will be gravely threatened by the dredging, which will occur over a 184-hectare (455-acre) area. Apart from the risk that the sediment will smother coral and seagrass, the increased shipping traffic will boost the risk of accidents, such as oil spills and collisions with delicate coral beds, environment groups argue."

Th Alpha coal mine, which will be built to ship 60 million tonnes of thermal coal through Abbot Point per year has also come under fire for its economics.

A recent study estimated that he Alpha mine would probably need a thermal coal price of at least $90 a tonne to proceed and "possibly more than $150 to generate returns."

Thermal coal used in power generation is currently trading at less than $80 a tonne as number one consumer China tries to tackle problems of pollution and change its energy mix.