Source: http://www.theage.com.au/environment/mining-bigger-threat-to-reef-than-agriculture-says-scientist-20131211-2z6f0.html and http://www.smh.com.au/environment/mining-bigger-threat-to-reef-than-agriculture-says-scientist-20131211-2z6f0.html or click here.
December 12, 2013
Mining poses a greater threat to the health of the Great Barrier Reef than agriculture, says one marine scientist who has cast doubt on the federal government’s prediction that water quality will improve along the reef coast.
On Tuesday, federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt gave the green light to the dredging and dumping associated with four coal terminals, the building of a LNG refinery and pipeline on the Great Barrier Reef coast.
Environmental conditions attached to the approval include an undertaking that water quality would improve by 150 per cent through a reduction in farm-related sediments flowing into the marine park.
But research scientist at James Cook University’s Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater Research, Jon Brodie, said mining activities presented a greater threat to the reef than agriculture.
”Farmers are going to be asked to save the reef when port authorities and climate change managers are doing nothing,” he said. ”It puts it all back on farmers.”
Agricultural activity within the Great Barrier Reef catchment area, such as beef grazing and farming releases sediment, chemical and fertiliser run-off. This is discharged from rivers into the sea.
However, Mr Brodie said the damage from the expansion of ports, including dredging sediments contaminated with heavy metals, could prove a greater threat to the health of the reef because – unlike run-off from agriculture – port development was occurring without any transparent and productive management of the risks.
The area off Abbot Point, where 3-million cubic metres of seabed will be dredged and dumped as part of the expansion, is near marine habitats, such as coral reefs and seagrass meadows that provide shelter and food for fish, turtles and dugongs. Cloudy water reduces the reach of sunlight that corals and seagrasses need for growth.
Mr Brodie said it was ”one more stress [on the reef] that could have been avoided”.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the conditions Mr Hunt imposed would improve water quality and protect the reef: ”We are actually making things better.”
Gladstone Conservation Council treasurer Cheryl Watson said the government would not have approved the projects if it was serious about protecting the reef.
Among them is Arrow Energy’s LNG refinery at Boatshed Point on Curtis Island, off Gladstone in Queensland. The new refinery will be the fourth on the island, which is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area.
Mrs Watson said while the southern part of the reef was 40-kilometres away, there were pockets of coral reef within Gladstone Harbour that would be vulnerable to industry growth.
”It needs to be protected because it’s part of a wider ecosystem,” she said.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation is due to rule on whether the Great Barrier Reef should be added to its ”World Heritage in Danger” list next year.