The new state government of Queensland, Australia, has signed a new agreement with Indian companies Adani Enterprises and GVK to expand the Abbot Point coal terminal, despite opposition from environmental groups.
Coal projects have been opposed by green groups, claiming they would pollute and damage the Great Barrier Reef.
Environmental groups protested saying that as part of mining, three million cubic metres of soil dredged at Abbot Point port will be dumped into the sea 15 miles from the Reef.
Under the new agreement, the companies will dump the dredged spoil at T2, adjacent to the existing coal terminal, not on the Caley Valley wetlands or within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said: "I’ve always said I support the responsible and sustainable development of the Galilee Basin and Abbot Point, and the agreement we’ve reached demonstrates that."
Following the clearance, Adani can proceed with its plans to finance the development of its $16.5bn Carmichael thermal coal mine, and GVK can go ahead with its $6bn Alpha mine.
As part of the projects, ports and railroads will be built to ferry coal from mines that are located 500km away in the untapped Galilee Basin.
The new projects are expected to create 4,000 jobs in the region.
Adani CEO and country head Jeyakumar Janakaraj said: "I welcome today’s announcement because it demonstrates the priority the government has placed from the outset on ensuring economic development proceeds in Queensland subject to robust environmental standards."
Adani is still holding discussions with regard to funding for the project and expects to reach a final investment decision later in 2015.
Image: Protest banner at Abbot Point, reading ‘Reef In Danger’. Photo: courtesy of Tom Jefferson / Greenpeace.