Studies for an environmental impact statement (EIS) have begun for the proposed expansion of Abbot Point, Australia’s biggest coal port.
Located 25 km northwest of Bowen in Queensland, Abbot Point currently has a capacity of 50 million tonnes per annum. The proposed expansion will increase its capacity by 70 million tonnes per annum to cater for additional coal from the Galilee Basin, including Adani Mining’s proposed Carmichael coal mine.
However, the plan has sparked controversy because of its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, with environmentalists up in arms against the proposed expansion.
State development minister Anthony Lynham said the assessment was the next stage in the expansion, which is needed for proposed coal mines in the Galilee Basin.
Construction for the proposed port expansion will create around 120 jobs for up to four months, as well as jobs associated with the proposed mines and flow-on supply chain jobs.
“This government is committed to a balanced approach to protecting the environment and delivering vital infrastructure for Queensland’s economic future,” Lynham said.
“That’s why we canned the Newman government’s plan to dump dredge spoil in the Caley Valley Wetlands and will instead place dredged material on unused industrial land next to the existing coal terminal.
“The port expansion is a critical element for unlocking the coal reserves in the Galilee Basin, which has the capacity to take Queensland’s coal industry to the next level and create thousands of jobs.”
Lynham said the EIS would take from six to nine months to complete, and include 20 business days for public consultation – double the amount provided by the previous government.
He said, “The Palaszczuk government intended for the project to follow due process, including a full EIS, unlike the former government [which] tried to rush through a project, which would have harmed the Caley Valley Wetlands without proper scrutiny.
“The full cost of the EIS will be paid for by mine proponent, Adani, not taxpayers, under an agreement with the government.”
The EIS will look at all environmental impacts, including detailed investigations into dredging impacts, social and economic impacts, marine ecology and terrestrial ecology (including flora and fauna), and management of cultural heritage with the Juru people, one of the traditional owners of the Great Barrier Reef region.
The expansion project proposes dredging approximately 61 ha of seabed within port limits, outside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
“There’s no question about it, Queensland can have this vital port infrastructure and a vibrant Great Barrier Reef – the findings of the EIS will show us the best way to achieve this,” Lynham said.