The expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal is set to go ahead thanks to a new agreement with the Queensland Premier.

By Mark Scott

THE controversial expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal will go ahead under a new agreement between the recently elected Queensland Government and major proponents Adani and GVK.

Under previous state government plans, dredge spoil from the expansion project was to be dumped either at sea, near the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, or in the environmentally sensitive Caley Valley wetlands.

A third option, announced last month by newly elected Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, would see spoil dumped on unallocated industrial land adjacent to the existing coal terminal, at a site named T2.

Adani and GVK would pay for the dredging program and approval costs under the new proposal, which requires Federal environmental approval before it can proceed.

The port expansion is a key part of the development of the coal-rich Galilee Basin.

Ms Palaszczuk said the government would withdraw the previous applications and present a new proposal centre on the T2 site.

“[This] sends a clear message: we can protect the Great Barrier Reef, and we can foster economic development and create jobs,” she said.

Adani chief executive Jeyakumar Janakaraj said the announcement demonstrated the priority the government placed on ensuring economic development proceeded in Queensland subject to robust environmental standards.

In a statement GVK welcomed the decision, which it said gave proponents a clear line of sight to the end of the approvals process.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said the advancement of the Abbot Point expansion was another positive step forward to open up the Galilee Basin, which would benefit the state and the nation.

“The proponents of the Abbot Point port development, in addition to current or future port proponents along the Queensland coast, would take comfort in the government’s positive approach to balancing industrial development and environmental protection that is important to our state’s economy and to the health of the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.

Environmental groups welcomed the decision on spoil, but queried the environmental impacts of the overall expansion projects.

“The new Queensland Government is to be commended for following through on its election promise to rule out dumping on the wetlands and to find an alternative location for the sludge,” WWF-Australia Reef campaigner Louise Matthiesson said.

“The T2 site is between the Reef World Heritage Area and the Caley Valley wetlands, so the utmost care must be taken before a final decision is made.

“Given the downturn in the coal industry, it’s time to genuinely review whether the port expansion is really necessary at all.”