BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Coal spillage into Caley Valley Wetlands from Adani’s Abbot Point Coal Terminal
Monday 10 April 2017
What we know so far:
- Satellite imagery released by the Queensland Government’s Queensland Globe have shown that the previously healthy Caley Valley Wetlands has been subjected to a large coal spill from Adani’s Abbot Point Terminal in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.
Impact of the coal on the Caley Valley wetlands and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park:
- At this stage it is clear that the wetlands will have been impacted by, what appears from satellite images to be, a very considerable spill of coal. However, precisely how much coal has been released into the wetlands and what the ecological impact will be remains unclear.
- Of concern is the fact that the wetland system is still water so the coal will not disperse.
- The biggest feared impact is that the coal smothers water-dwelling flora and fauna such as benthic fauna.
- Coal can also release both toxic organic chemicals and heavy metals into water posing an additional threat to the wetlands.
- Abbot Point is located on the Great Barrier Reef coast. Coal dust kills coral in high concentrations and slows growth of seagrass and fish.
- The Reef is already stressed and in crisis – with two-thirds suffering severe bleaching for the second year in a row.
Abbot Point Background
- Abbot Point is located 25 kilometres from Bowen in Northern Queensland, with one major coal terminal, stretching some 2 kilometres out to sea.
- The Abbot Point terminal is located on the coastline of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area, from which 50 million tonnes of coal per year coal is currently exported from its Terminal (T1). Adani has approval for a new coal terminal, Terminal 0, at Abbot Point with a capacity of up to 70Mtpa.
- The area surrounding the Abbot Point coal terminal is home to dugongs, endangered turtles, snubfin dolphins and the nationally significant Caley Valley Wetlands.
- Plans to expand Abbot Point would require 1 million cubic metres of dredging which is would be dumped between the Caley Valley Wetlands and the Great Barrier Reef Coastline.
- The development of Abbot Point will cause the permanent loss of large areas of seagrass, which is critical dugong habitat, a species whose population within the GBRWHA has fallen to just 3% of 1960s levels.
- The Caley valley wetlands are habitat to 154 species of birds, including many endangered species, such as the acclaimed Black-throated Finch, and the Australian Painted Snipe. Total abundance of over 40,000 birds has been found at the wetlands.
Abbot Point controversies
- In February this year it was revealed that the Palaszczuk Government had appointed an Adani company director to chair the authority overseeing the Abbot Point coal port, despite being warned of potential conflicts of interest. The Treasurer did not disclose Brad Fish’s links to Adani at the time of announcing the decision to appoint him as Chair of the publicly-owned North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation
- Local conservation group the Whitsunday Residents Against Dumping (WRAD) have taken the state Environment Department to court, arguing the project was not properly assessed prior to environmental approvals being granted.
- In December 2014, former Environment Minister Greg Hunt introduced changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. These changes were passed, and mean the federal government does not have to consider expert advice before approving major developments such as mines and ports.
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