More than 200 scientists have written a joint letter to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority urging the Chairman to reject an application to expand the Abbot Point coal terminal near Bowen.
A decision on granting approval for the expansion is expected to be handed down by the The Marine Park Authority by the end of the week, after the project received federal approval last month.
The expansion of the port of Abbot Point is a key linchpin in the State Government’s Galilee Basin Development Strategy announced in November.
The future of several large mining projects earmarked for the Galilee Basin could be in jeopardy if the Abbot Point expansion does not go ahead.
The scientists are concerned that the millions of cubic metres of spoil that must be dredged and dumped during construction will severely impact the health of the nearby Great Barrier Reef.
The 233 scientists have signed a letter to Authority Chairman Russell Reichelt, urging him to reject the plan.
The ABC reports that the letter states: “The best available science makes it very clear that expansion of the port at Abbot Point will have detrimental effects on the Great Barrier Reef,”
“Sediment from dredging can smother corals and seagrasses and expose them to poisons and elevated nutrients.”
University of Queensland scientist Selina Ward says dredging sediment smothers corals, exposes them to poisons and reduces photosynthesis.
“If the water is not clear, if it’s turbid through too much sediment it cuts down on the amount of light and reduces the amount of growth and health of those corals,” she said.
She says research from Gladstone shows dredge spoil moves much further than previously thought.
“A paper came out in 2012 that showed plumes of sediment can reach the Great Barrier Reef quite easily,” she said.