Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef IMG: via Shutterstock.

Adani Enterprises is currently facing another delay in implementing its $15 billion coal mine project in Australia, due to worries that a port expansion to accommodate the project may hurt the world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef. Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt has extended his review of Adani’s $15.5 billion Carmichael Coal and Rail Project until August 1.

While the state government claims the strategy, released earlier this month, will not harm the marine environment, scientists and conservation groups are horrified. Adani’s coal project has faced a lot of heat from environmental groups not only on the proposed port expansion but also at the coal mines. The project in the untapped Galilee Basin, designed to produce 60 million tons of thermal coal a year, has been attacked by green groups who are opposed to both new coal mines and the rail lines and ports needed to ship the coal.

Adani Enterprises is looking to use Abbot Point port but is facing a legal challenge from green groups fighting an expansion that will dredge up three million cubic meters of sand. The sand will be dumped near the Great Barrier Reef and could potentially disturb the ecosystem there. Tourism operators are also not pleased with the proposed coal port project fearing it will hasten an already steep decline in water quality.

The water, clouded by “plumes” of sediment stirred up during dredging, is becoming unpleasant and hard to see well in when out snorkeling or diving and could cause a drop in tourism money to visit the Great Barrier Reef. The government’s timing for putting off a decision on the project comes just as UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee is due to vote on a proposal for putting the Great Barrier Reef in the ‘endangered’ list.

As Greenpeace program head, Ben Pearson, said, “Approving (the project) now would have been tantamount to an act of provocation, with UNESCO currently mulling the status of Australia’s greatest natural icon”.