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Save the Great Barrier Reef from Coal - April 2012

Photo © Wildlife Queensland

Enormous expansion of coal mining, coal seam gas exploitation and coal exports are planned in the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland. These developments are unprecedented in history and threaten one of Australia’s most precious treasures, the Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Listed Property and one of the world’s most biodiverse areas.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee expressed 'extreme concern' over the approval of coal seam gas processing and port facilities within the World Heritage property and requested the Australian Government to invite a monitoring mission to visit the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage site.  The international experts landed in Australia on 5th March and are currently assessing the state of our reef – which could turn from 'one of the jewels in the World Heritage Crown', as it was once described by the UNESCO to 'World Heritage in Danger', a list by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for areas that are not living up to the standards and to date mainly includes areas in developing countries in Latin America and Africa.

Australia, the custodian of one of the world’s great natural wonders, is on the brink of turning it into a massive industrial estate. While the big coal giants, including Rio Tinto, Vale and Anglo American will reap the benefits, Australia might ruin one of its national treasures.

What exactly is happening?

  • Major new port infrastructure is proposed and in progress in hubs along the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area – from Gladstone to Cape York. These projects will devastate significant areas of Queensland’s coastline both on and offshore. The port at Abbott Point is destined to become the largest coal export port in the world, more than twice as large as any other on the planet!
  • Up to 10,000 coal ships would travel through the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area by the end of this decade, carrying coal and coal seam gas through the reef. More ships mean more pollution, more spills, more groundings and more collisions, as have occurred already now.
  • For coal ships to access the huge ports, millions of tonnes of sea floor will need to be dredged within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The proposed and approved dredging would fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground 67 times.

Environmental, social and economic impacts

But this is not where it stops. These developments might not only destroy a reef that took millions of years to form at the blink of an eye, but also contribute to climate change at a degree that is alarming in light of our commitment to the Kyoto protocol.  The mining boom is already driving up the Australian dollar which has negative impacts on other industries like manufacturing, tourism and agriculture. The Environmental Impact Statement for Clive Palmer’s ‘China First’ mine openly states that the mine would destroy over 2000 manufacturing jobs in Queensland alone. The fishermen in Gladstone have already lost their livelihood, and farms across Australia are overrun by federal and state governments, who give out licences to prospect for coal seam gas on farmers’ property without the landowner’s approval. The impacts on more fishing, tourism and other local industries along the Northern Queensland coast are yet to follow.

Photo © Wildlife Queensland

We need to act now before it’s too late

It is a historical moment for Wildlife Queensland, which was founded in the 1962 by famous Australian poet Judith Wright to fight mining on the Great Barrier Reef. 50 years ago, we succeeded, and now, decades later, the reef is once again under threat. Help us fight once again for this magnificent natural wonder. The Great Barrier Reef is not an industrial playground for mining barons. It is Australia’s legacy and must be safeguarded for future generations. The guardians of World Heritage – UNESCO – arrived in Australia in March to investigate impacts on the reef. In response, the Queensland and Australian Governments will conduct an 18-month ‘strategic assessment’ of the reef. 

Everyone can help. Here is what you can do:

Please urgently use your networks to spread the word about what is happening and use this moment to take the fight to the coal barons:

  • Sign the greenpeace and getup petitions to protect the reef from coal:
  • Share the story and the petition on Facebook, Twitter and your web site
  • Put out your own group's media release, if you are an active volunteer
  • Call talk-back radio immediately and express your outrage at the issue
  • Call politicians and demand they put a moratorium on all coal and gas development or approvals until the Strategic Assessment of the Reef is completed:

            Tony Burke, Federal Environment Minister: 02 6277 7640
            Wayne Swan, Deputy Prime Minister: 02 6277 7340
            Julia Gillard: 02 6277 7700
            Campbell Newman, QLD Premier: 07 3224 4500

Further Information


For more information on Wildlife Queensland's activities, call us on +61 7 3221 0194 or send us an email.