Mining risk to Great Barrier Reef

Newly approved coal terminal the first of nine, according to Greenpeace

a woman

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The Federal government has approved a new coal terminal at Queensland’s Abbot Point port, 25kms north-west of Bowen and very near to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Greenpeace has recently called for tough action from state and federal governments, after scientists revealed the Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral cover in just 27 years, and may lose half again in the next ten years.

Greenpeace campaigner Georgina Woods said,

“The Reef is in peril, but Australia has yet to respond to a World Heritage Committee decision, requesting we do not approve any more development that will impact on its Outstanding Universal Value”, and added, “If Australia wants to get tough on coral bleaching, we have to do more to cut pollution by cutting our coal exports.

According to Greenpeace, there are applications for nine new coal export terminals to be built along the Great Barrier Reef coast.

The most recent approval comes with a set of 60 conditions, designed to protect the Reef and the environment surrounding the terminal. The new terminal will be used by the joint GVK/Hancock Alpha Coal project, to ship thermal coal overseas from its mine in the Galilee Basin. A $10 billion project, it includes the mine and port facilities at Abbot Point, and a 495 km rail line. The joint venture expects to ship its first coal in 2016.

Coal miners, Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO), New Hope Corporation (ASX: NHC) and BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP) – through its alliance with Mitsubishi, already use Abbot Point to ship coal from their Queensland mines in the Bowen and Galilee basins. Junior explorers, Bandanna Energy (ASX: BND) and Carabella Resources (ASX: CLR) are also likely to ship coal through Abbot Point, once they get their coal projects into production.

The Foolish bottom line

Falling coal prices may limit new coal mine projects coming on stream, and that is likely to delay the building of additional terminals at Abbot Point. Whether the new terminals will cause damage to the Reef and surrounding environment remains to be seen, but you can bet your bottom dollar, Greenpeace won’t be too happy about the most recent approval.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King owns shares in BHP. The Motley Fool’s purpose is to help the world invest, better. Take Stock is The Motley Fool’s free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead. Click here now to request your free subscription, whilst it’s still available. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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