Australia: Minister Meets to Consider Abbot Point Expansion

The new Federal Environment Minister will today meet with stakeholders of a major multi-billion dollar coal port expansion in north Queensland.

Mark Butler will fly over Abbot Point near Bowen today before meeting with the port operator, environmental groups and fishermen in Townsville.

The visit comes after Mr Butler announced last week he would delay a final decision of the project until August 9.

The minister has been under pressure to visit the region after conservationists and parts of the fishing industry raised alarm about potential impacts to the environment.

“I want to be very clear what the local community’s view is about this project,” Mr Butler said.

“There’s expert advice I’ll also be considering.”

The proposal being considered by the minister includes plans to dredge three million cubic metres of spoil and dump it in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Parts of Bowen’s commercial fishing industry worry this could hurt populations of key fish stock like Spanish mackerel.

However, in April, the port operator, North Queensland Bulk Ports, acknowledged some of these concerns and said it would find a new offshore dump site.

This means the proposal currently being considered by Mr Butler doesn’t specify where the spoil will go.

Mr Butler says he wants to know the full extent of the dredging plans before making a decision.

There’s significant dredging so… it will be important we know what the consequence of that dredging is in terms of where it will be dumped.

“But I don’t want to pre-empt what I’ll be doing.”

If approved, Abbot Point will become one of the world’s largest coal terminals.

Source: greatbarrierreef.org, July 17, 2013

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