Environmental group GetUp have released a video showing children playing on a coal covered beach in Indonesia, a reality they claim will come to fruition in North Queensland if a coal port development is allowed to go ahead at Keppel Bay.
The Mitchell Group is seeking approval for a $900 terminal in the mouth of the Fitzroy Delta, with barges to take coal out to ships off the coast in Keppel Bay, an area which gives way to the Great Barrier Reef.
Getup say they are concerned about the practice – known as transhipping – drawing comparisons to a similar project in Indonesia which they say has caused significant environmental damage.
The video released by the group shows how the barges are filled, saying there is nothing to stop coal falling into the water system.
“Along this coast, the black colour is coal,” a local Indonesian man states while holding a piece of coal he picked up from the sand.
“Keppel Bay’s Sandy white beaches shouldn’t be littered with coal,” the narrator of the video states.
Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance (KAFDA) spokeswoman Ginny Gerlach said GetUp's video shows why the development needs to be rejected.
"We have surveyed our community and 92% of people are already extremely concerned about this proposal," Gerlach said.
"These disturbing images of children playing on coal-covered beaches show what our future would be if this goes ahead.”
Get Up's national director Sam McLean said the technology had never been trialled in an exposed location like Keppel Bay, stating it posed huge environmental threats.
"The Fitzroy Delta is the largest estuary flowing on to the reef and is home to the rare snubfin dolphin and flatback turtle," he said.
"We need to protect this place.
"The environment minister has made public statements about protecting the Fitzroy Delta.
"But plans for this new port are still on the table."GetUp members are asking him to look at the facts and categorically reject this risky proposal.
"Footage obtained by GetUp showed similar technology in Indonesia, where significant amounts of coal were found along the surrounding beaches and children reported skin irritations, after playing in the waters of a nearby beach.
McLean said, working 24 hours a day, each barge would carry up to 10,000 tonnes of coal at a time to the transhipper, a large vessel that ties up to cargo ships anchored in the deeper exposed waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
"Light, dusty coal would be likely to blow into the marine environment, directly threatening the health of people and wildlife in the Fitzroy Delta and Keppel Bay – and ultimately, the reef itself,” he said.
"In calm conditions, it would take two to four days to load the coal from successive barges (via the transhipper) to fill each ship.
"But on 48% of days, wind at the proposed site exceeds the Mitchell Group's safe-loading limit of 25 knots, leaving the ships idle and at risk in the exposed waters of Keppel Bay."
Former Environment Minister Tony Burke recently wrote to the Mitchell Group saying the project is clearly unacceptable following new information received from Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
Mitchell Ports project manager Peter McTaggart said Burke’s letter was outside of the EIS process.
"We're actually perplexed as to why we received the letter," McTaggart said.
"I suppose he's stating his opinion, why he's doing that I'm not sure."
McTaggart said the company will continue to seek environment approval.