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Located 25 kilometres from Bowen in Northern Queensland, Abbot Point is a 50 million tonne per year coal export port that is set to become one of the world’s biggest if plans to open up the Galilee coal basin are realised.
Plans by Adani to expand the existing terminal would increase capacity by another 70 million tonnes and an additional terminal proposed by GVK would add a further 60 million tonnes.
The expansions and new terminals would enable GVK and Adani to build their mega coal mines in the Galilee Basin. GVK’s “Alpha” coal project would be equivalent to Australia’s biggest ever coal mine at 30 million tonnes per year of production and even this is just half the size of Adani’s 60 million tonne per year “Carmichael” mine.
The Galilee is one of the biggest untapped coal basins in the world and unless we keep it that way, it will be a disaster for the climate. The Carmichael and Alpha projects alone would produce enough coal to generate over 240 million tonnes per year of carbon pollution, more than Queensland’s total emissions. But in opening up the Galilee, these projects would pave the way for other proposed mines that could produce over 300 million tones of coal per year. Over the lifetime of these projects, the coal from these mines would generate enough carbon emissions to consume 7% of the world’s remaining carbon budget. It is likely that the development of the Galilee Basin would render it impossible to achieve a safe climate future.
The expansion of Abbot Point itself would bring a host of additional, local and immediate impacts to the environment. The Abbot Point coal port sits within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The World Heritage Committee have expressed concerns about the industrialisation of the Great Barrier Reef coastline and are watching its management closely, maintaining their threat to add the Reef to the “World Heritage in Danger” list if things deteriorate. The Committee have specifically expressed their concern and regret at the approval of the Abbot Point port expansion, which involves dredging and dumping 3 million cubic metres of spoil.
The expansion of Abbot Point would also mean constructing new terminals over the Caley Valley wetlands, home to several threatened migratory bird species and just metres from the foraging habitat of the Loggerhead and Olive Ridley turtle, both of which are listed as threatened. The increase in capacity at Abbot Point would also help turn the Great Barrier Reef into a coal shipping superhighway, with the expansion of Abbot Point enough to add well over a thousand more ships to traverse the Reef each year, increasing the risk of accidents such as the Shen Neng, which ran aground in the Reef in 2010 and destroyed a 300,000 square metre area of coral.