Great Barrier Reef Threatened by Coal Mining | Journal Reporter

for these Chinese tourists seeing the

Great Barrier Reef with their own eyes

is a dream come true some 2 million

visitors flocked to Australia's

northeast coast every year to marvel at

the underwater paradise but behind the

pretty pictures there's a sad story over

the past 30 years the reef has lost half

its coral and now the underwater marvel

faces a new threat just a few kilometres

away several large projects are planned

along the coast of Queensland state to

boost Australia's coal exports is there

still time to save the Great Barrier


the Great Barrier Reef is a study in


it stretches 2300 kilometers making the

coral reef the planets largest living

organism a true natural wonder

it's also a paradise for divers

Tony Fontes who's from the US came to

Australia as a backpacker 30 years ago

he only intended to stay a few weeks and

earn a little money as a diving

instructor but he ended up staying one

day I'll see a green turtle which is

pretty amazing because they're

endangered in their own right but we do

see them regularly on the reef where

they're protected and then during whale

season to see a whale from above water

is amazing to see what underwater is a

once-in-a-lifetime event which I've

managed to do once and I'm waiting for

that next time so the beauty of the

Great Barrier Reef is you never know

what you're gonna see but you know

you're going to see something absolutely

amazing every time you give mint UNESCO

declared the Great Barrier Reef a World

Heritage Site in 1981 it's hard to

believe that these waters could one day

be home to a sludge dump which is what

the Australian government is planning

cherry muddle works as a campaigner for

the Australian Marine Conservation

Society she's showing us the Abbot Point

project just 40 kilometres from the

coral reefs the coal port on

Queensland's East Coast is at the center

of a bitter debate between Australia's

energy industry and environmental

activists our point will be the largest

coal port in the world on the doorstep

of the Great Barrier Reef it's a world

heritage area seventh wonder of the


and they're planning to dump 5 million

tons of spoil mods in the reefs waters

the controversial plan calls for a

massive expansion of Abbot Point sport

in order to accommodate bigger coal

freighters that would involve building

new terminals dredging the channels and

dumping millions of tons of sludge into

the sea anyway in the Great Barrier Reef

it's a World Heritage icon not

the latest science shows that when you

dump dredge it doesn't just sit there it

spreads and it can spread up to 80

kilometers manikins settle and spa the

corals the seagrass diving instructor

tony Fontes fears the plans could spell

the end of the Great Barrier Reef over

the past three decades he's witnessed

the gradual erosion of the coral which

form an extremely delicate ecosystem

climate change tropical storms and

fertilizers used in agriculture have

already taken a heavy toll on the coral

but the booming coal industry and plans

to expand harbors are adding to the

perils UNESCO is threatening to revoke

the Great Barrier Reef's special

designation that would be the biggest

embarrassment I can imagine for a

government to lose the listing world

heritage area while you're on watch

can't be anything more embarrassing but

also be a real blow to the tourism

industry because having something as a

world heritage area it's very special

it's a responsibility we have to the

world to protect the world heritage

values the Great Barrier Reef the

government has already approved the

Abbot Point expansion plan the

Townsville based agency in charge of the

coral reefs Protection had the final say

we had to wait several weeks before our

request for an interview was granted the

meeting place the Great Barrier Reef

Aquarium promising a pretty backdrop at

least Russell Reichert is Australia's

top coral reef protection official he

insists that the port expansion plans

are completely safe

he's also brushed aside concerns raised

within his department we think that by

staying within the existing ports the

the damage if they would there will be

no unacceptable changes to the system

it's a load by the big scale it's a low

impact operation to maintain those ports

and it will be a very long distance from

existing major coral reef systems it's a

very big system but there are fears that

even slight tinkering with the eco

system could have drastic consequences

many people's livelihoods depend on the

Great Barrier Reef not suffering any

further devastation Tony Brown takes

tourists on cruises to the coral

paradise point project is only 40

kilometers away from the route he takes

sustainable industry we are here we want

this this area to be pristine for future

generations for everyone to enjoy I

can't understand how you could be

looking at a non sustainable industry

such as coal there's so much issues

about the way Cole's going in its price

to go out there and do these ports when

there are better options than sea

dumping I mean we're not asking if it's

a modest request do not see dumped in

the marine park don't take the risk Tony

Brown is convinced the government will

do whatever it takes to help the coal

industry so he's decided to take up the

fight from a different angle his aim is

to persuade major banks not to help

finance the multi-billion dollar harbor


his biggest success so far winning over

deutsche bank so we thought why don't we

go speak to the financial institutions

these guys need money there they don't

have a bucket full of money they need to

borrow suspected which a bank explained

our situation and literally let's be

honest if they can put a condition on

there that the best practices is the

only way they're going to give a

condition to financing Abbott points

expansion then that seems the the only

way so far the coal industry isn't

worried Australia is the world's biggest

coal exporter and plans call for

doubling foreign deliveries in the

coming years

the industry is hoping to dig new mines

in Queensland's interior and expand at

least five ports on the coast

Michael Roche is an energy industry

lobbyist and he predicts a golden future

for coal well it's such an important

part of the economy and we know that

coal demand globally is going to keep

growing particularly in Asia not just

China but also India and Southeast Asia

they're strong markets 10,000 colleges

but environmentalists fear coal will be

the final straw for the Great Barrier

Reef Greenpeace has launched online ads

like this one to heighten awareness

about the coal projects activists claim

marine life including dolphins will

suffer if the plan goes ahead but

lobbyists say the environmentalists

campaign is misguided I know that the

Great Barrier Reef has some challenges

but they know those challenges don't

come from port development and dredging

that won't stop the social media

campaigns by the activists they are very

keen to shut down the coal industry

while the coal industry repeats its

claim that port expansion and dredging

pose no risks some people say they have

evidence to the contrary crews began

expanding the port in Gladstone three

years ago people here say they've

already been affected by the


mark macmillan is a third-generation

fisherman and is taking us out to see

the new terminal in order to make the

harbor navigable for bigger freighters

millions of tons of silt were dredged

from Gladstone and dumped out at sea

things weren't too bad for us until the

dredging started them you know it's you

almost just flick a switch once once the

full-on dredging started we were

catching some mackerel in the harbor

further down the harbor

they just disappeared overnight from 200

kilos a night to zero on land one of the

world's largest liquid gas export

terminals is taking shape mark macmillan

used to throw his nets where the gas

freighters will soon be docking you've

only got to look at it and any person

that can tie their own shoelaces can

can't tell me that this does not have

any effect on the environment it's look

at it

most people involved in the fishing

industry have given up that are seeking

compensation from the courts but mark

macmillan wants to continue fishing even

though much of his catch is unfit for

sale he shows us salmon he caught a few

weeks ago and froze as evidence the fish

have red eyes and show signs of bleeding

Macmillan suspects that pollution from

the harbor floor made the fish sick so

far the Port Authority denies any

responsibility I'm 100% sure it's got to

do with the dredging I'm positive

I'll add what else can it be there is no

other no other excuse for it because

we've never seen it before

but porn expansion is going ahead in

spite of those concerns environmental

activist cherry muddle fears more

situations like the one in Gladstone if

elected officials don't change their

thinking it's extremely frustrating if

you look at Gladstone

we still have many questions unanswered

it was an environmental disaster yeah

the Australian Government is fast

tracking massive industrialization on

the reef and they're approving millions

and tons of dredging and dumping in the

reef Globetrotters hoping to experience

the Great Barrier Reef and all its

beauty would be well advised to hurry up

activists fear the Kuril won't survive

the fight against the coal industry