Hunt approves Abbot Pt expansion

FEDERAL Environment Minister Greg Hunt has approved development at Abbot Point in North Queensland which will make way for future development of coal and rail projects in the Galilee Basin, including Adani’s Carmichael mine complex.
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Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

Lou Caruana

The proposed port expansion, from 50 million tonnes to 120Mt per year, will create hundreds of jobs during construction, as part of the estimated 5000 construction jobs for the Adani mine, rail and port projects as well as thousands of operational jobs thereafter, according to Queensland Resources CEO Michael Roche.

The project involves dredging 1.1 million cubic metres of spoil near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which will then be disposed of on land.

The environmental approval comes with strict conditions and follows on a public consultation process.

It paves the way for the construction of a second terminal at Abbot Point for exports to a coal-hungry India, Roche said.

“The conditions also align with the Reef2050 plan that ensures protection of the iconic Great Barrier Reef,” he said.

“The port expansion has to be good news for regional communities doing it tough like Bowen, Mackay and Townsville.

“It should be remembered that Queensland taxpayers will not pay for costs associated with approvals or the necessary expansion work at Abbot Point, which will be met by coal mine proponents.”

The Adani company, as India’s largest private sector power producer, needs the high energy coal in the Galilee Basin as that country strives to bring electricity to 300 million people who currently don’t have access to power.

“The expansion of Abbot Point, the lifeblood of Bowen, is key to Adani's plans to deliver 10,000 direct and indirect jobs and $22 billion in taxes and royalties to Queensland,” the company said in a statement.

“Adani welcomed and willingly supported the move to an onshore disposal of dredged material last year, when a site not previously available became a viable option for proximate, well-managed disposal of dredged material.

“This is the third time a well-managed, strictly regulated, science and evidence-based expansion approval has been the subject of a state and federal government approval process since 2010.

“The approval given by Minister Hunt to the Queensland government mirrors the approvals given to Adani's mine at Carmichael and North Galilee Basin Rail projects, in that they reflect the strictest, world's best practice environmental safeguards.

“Adani, working with the Queensland government, is confident that the strict conditions placed on this project will enable the jobs and economic benefits that will flow from the expansion of this vital port for exports from our state to proceed.”

The Queensland government said it welcomes the Commonwealth government’s decision to approve the final environmental impact statement for the Abbot Point Growth Gateway Project.

State development minister Anthony Lynham said the decision meant that if one or more of the proposed Galilee Basin coal mine projects go ahead, the port could be developed to allow increased exports.

“The approval is another milestone towards realising the jobs and economic benefits that developing the Galilee Basin could bring to Queensland, while continuing to protect the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.

“As I have said previously, there will be no dredging at the port until Adani demonstrates financial closure.”

The EIS followed the Queensland Government’s move earlier this year to meets its election commitments to protect the nationally-significant Caley Valley wetlands and ban sea dumping of capital dredged material.

Dredge spoil is to be placed on land on the site known as T2, adjacent to the existing coal terminal, not on the Caley Valley wetlands or within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Lynham said the EIS approved found that there would be no significant residual impacts on matters of national environmental significance, including the Great Barrier Reef.

The EIS was open for public consultation for four weeks and more than 55 000 submissions were received.

This is the last Commonwealth approval under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 for the proposed Carmichael coal mine and rail project in the Galilee Basin.