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Queensland government clears way for coal projects to strand themselves

Queensland’s new Labor government has cleared the way for huge coal developments in the Galilee basin, reaching a deal with Indian coal giants Adani and GVK on the Abbot point terminal expansion and resulting dredge spoil dumping.

The three million cubic metres of dredge spoil removed during the proposed port expansion will now have to be dumped at the port itself, not on the reef or nearby wetlands, with an Environmental Impact Statement due to be complete by end of year.

The government has also remained firm on its position of not providing taxpayer support for the projects to expand the port or link it to the mines with new rail infrastructure.

“WWF has repeatedly called for a longer jetty at Abbot Point to avoid the majority of dredging. Better utilisation of existing ports could deliver the same economic benefits without unnecessarily damaging the reef.” WWF reef campaigner Louise Matthieson.

While the announcement is an improvement on the previous Liberal National coalition government position, the dredging and increased shipping that would result from the port expansion stills risk an “in danger” ruling for the Great Barrier Reef from UNESCO.

With the price of coal shooting through the floor, renewables increasingly challenging and beating coal on cost, and financial scandals and accusations of misleading behavior plaguing Adani, serious questions hang over the project’s overall viability.

Adani’s project is increasingly looking like a white elephant, so the State Government’s deal could be seen as a savvy way to avoid blame if it falls over.

“Obviously there’s no point in damaging the reef, dredging in the waters, if all we end up with is a white elephant or a stranded asset.” Coordinator with the North Queensland Conservation Council, Wendy Tubman.

However, its comments on the decision – that Labor are “no fools” and future economic development relies on coal mining – fail to reconcile the heavy risks in store for QLD if its economic star remains hitched to coal.

Putting a state’s economic and environmental future in the hands of dirty energy conglomerates with highly questionable business practices is a recipe for disaster. Adani has a history of environmental destruction, non-compliance with regulations and human rights abuses, and given it is currently at the centre of a financial scandal and accusations of misleading behavior, its claims about jobs, royalty contributions and desire to protect the environment are highly questionable.

There will be no coal industry in a world acting on climate change, where coal assets end up stranded in carbon bubble, or there will be no reef with a coal industry and its worsening impact on the local environment and global climate. Either way, QLD and Australia loses with coal.

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