BRISBANE, Australia (AP) – The government of Australia’s Queensland state approved a plan Monday that will prevent 3 million cubic meters (106 million cubic feet) of seabed mud from being dumped in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The state-owned North Queensland Bulk Ports Corp., or NQBP, already has federal approval to dump dredged sediment in the marine park in order to expand the Abbot Point coal port near the town of Bowen, a decision that environmentalists say will endanger one of the world’s most fragile ecosystems. But Queensland Premier Campbell Newman announced Monday that his Cabinet ministers had approved a new disposal plan that would have the material reused on land.
“(It) will create a win-win situation. It will protect the unique values of the Great Barrier Reef and allow for the staged development of the important port of Abbot Point,” Newman said in a statement.
The state government has asked federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who approved the Abbot Point expansion in 2013, to fast-track approval for the new plan. The government hopes the new disposal plan will ensure the Abbot Point expansion can begin on schedule.
NQBP will carry out the dredging on behalf of proponents Adani and GVK Hancock. Adani wants the work to begin in June 2015.
Last week, NQBP said it was looking at alternative disposal options due to a legal challenge by an environmental group against dumping the material at sea.