Proponents of the expansion to the Abbott Point coal loading facility will abandon plans to dump dredge spoils in the Great Barrier Reef, in order to explore other options.
North Queensland Bulk Ports, GVK Hancock and Adani Group will resubmit a proposal which suggests onshore dumping sites, as early as this week.
Offshore dumping was already approved by Environment minister Greg Hunt, however Queensland federal MP George Christensen has become a vocal advocate of the proposal to dump dredged material onshore.
The owner of a former saltworks, Kevin Murphy has come forward and volunteered the land to accommodate the dredging spoil, which prompted Christensen to take out two full page newspaper ads admitting he did not forsee the public angst caused by the dumping proposal.
The ads appeared in the Whitsunday Guardian, where they would be seen by Christensen’s local constituents.
The Brisbane Times reported the dredge spoil would be used for an extension to the Bowen Airport runway.
Tourism operators and Whitsundays residents said tourism numbers from Europe have already dropped by 30 per cent, which has been related to negative environmental press about the dredging.
Christensen has said that he does not believe the offshore dumping of dredge spoil will harm the reef, but the damage being done to the local tourism industry requires action.
He has also expressed the belief that environmental appeals against the coal export port expansion could threaten the viability of the Adani-owned Carmichael mine.
“My fear is that the project will collapse unless we move from a sea-based dredge disposal approach to a land-based one,” he said.
Christensen said all land–based options should be explored because of the probability that conservationists will appeal if they lose a current legal challenge to North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation about the offshore dumping of dredge spoils.
“If that happens the project is dead anyway,” he said.
“I seriously doubt any of the proponents are going to sit there and twiddle their thumbs for two years while the cases are underway and not make money,” he said.
A spokesman for Carmichael coal mine developers Adani Group said they were committed to ensuring the project was achieved with the best outcome for the environment.
“We’ve long said that disposal options will adhere to the best practice and the best science, based on advice from technical experts and approving authorities,” he said.
After delays to approval in June, Adani warned plans for Abbot Point could be abandoned if dredging is not completed before June 30 next year.
Adani recently announced plans to hire 5000 people during the construction phase of the Carmichael project, double the estimatesmade when approval for the mine was announced, with the first round of workers to be hired next year.