The fragile reef, which stretches 2,300 km (1,430 miles) along
Australia's east coast, and sprawls over an area half the size of
Texas, was the centerpiece of a campaign by green groups and tour
operators opposing the plan.
They feared that dumping soil 25 km (15 miles) from the reef would
harm delicate corals and seagrasses and potentially double ship
traffic through the area.
The Abbot Point port is being expanded to accommodate $16 billion
worth of coal projects planned in the inland Galilee Basin by two
Indian firms, Adani Enterprises and GVK, and Australian billionaire
On Tuesday, the paper said North Queensland Bulk Ports, Adani Group
and GVK would re-submit a proposal as early as this week to
Environment Minister Greg Hunt offering alternative dumping sites on
The change is designed to defuse controversy over potential damage
to the reef and avoid a court case launched by the North Queensland
Conservation Council, it added.
"If the reports are true, the cheapest, most destructive option for
expanding Abbot Point may have been taken off the table," said Adam
Walters, head of research for environmental group Greenpeace.
A spokesman for Hunt declined to confirm the newspaper's report,
saying no new proposals had been received yet.
"There was no option available at the time of the decision," Hunt
told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio on Tuesday. "There may well
be one opening up. It's up to the proponents to submit it. We
haven't seen any documentation."
A spokesman for Adani said the company was open to viable
alternatives to the dredging plan.
"We are committed to ensuring the best options are in place to
ensure this project is achieved, together with the best possible
environmental outcomes," he said.
[to top of second column]
In January, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority granted a
permit for North Queensland Bulk Ports Corp to dump the dredged
material in the park, to deepen Abbot Point for two terminals
planned by Adani and GVK-Hancock.
Adani and GVK have long-term plans to ship a total of 120 million
tonnes of coal through the port each year.
Last June, UNESCO's world heritage panel deferred until next year a
decision on whether to designate the 300,000-sq-km reef as a site in
The reef has the world's largest collection of coral reefs, with 400
types of coral, 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 types of mollusc, and
is home to threatened species, including the dugong and large green
turtle, the World Heritage list says.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
is concerned over the proposed coastal developments, and has asked
Australia for an updated report on the state of conservation of the
reef by next February 1.
(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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