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Mega-mine near the Reef goes down like coal-filled balloon

June 18, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Great Barrier Reef tourism promoters are considering their options now that Indian company Adani has been given the green light to start work on its proposed giant Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin – a project which will move vast tonnages of coal through the Abbot Point coal port fronting the middle of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The coal mine’s effect on tourism is unclear – but as always with tourism, perception is everything. News that approval has been granted for a humongous coal mine next to the beautiful Great Barrier Reef is a hard sell for the tourism industry, to put it mildly.

Adani Australia chief executive Lucas Dow expects the mine to create 6750 indirect jobs in the region. Opponents dispute that, saying there will be far fewer jobs – and others point out that 64,000 tourism jobs depend on the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

Deloitte Access Economics has valued the Great Barrier Reef at AUD 56 billion, with an economic contribution of AUD 6.4 billion a year.

With climate change in the news daily, coal mines have an image problem. Reef tourism operators are already trying to dispel exaggerated rumours that the Reef has been completely bleached – they don’t need news of a giant coal mine next door adding fuel to the fire.

International headlines tell the story.

A Victory for Coal Clears the Way for a Disputed Mine, said the New York Times.

Rolling Stone magazine was more forthright.

The World’s Most Insane Energy Project Moves Ahead, was the US publication’s headline, followed by: Australia approves Adani coal mine, endangering the Great Barrier Reef and, well, civilization

Human sign – Stop Adani!

The Rolling Stone article began: “Thanks to President Trump and his transparent and perverse desire to enrich his golfing buddies in the fossil fuel industry and to accelerate the climate crisis, the U.S. is the most notorious climate criminal in the world right now. But the Aussies are giving us a run for our money.”

The Guardian: Campaigners criticise ‘reckless’ approval of Adani mine in Australia

The Jakarta Post: Australia approves vast coal mine near Great Barrier Reef, “paving the way for a dramatic and unfashionable increase in coal exports”.

No matter how people get their news, approval of a colossal coal mine (set to be one of the world’s largest) is not perceived as good news in Australia’s international tourist markets. When the mine sits right next to the Great Barrier Reef, you don’t need to be a marketing genius to work out the mental imagery.

Coincidentally, two days after the Queensland Government gave the mine project the go-ahead, Pope Francis said: “There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.”

Protests against the Adani mine proposal have continued for years, but Australia’s recent federal election showed that in Queensland, much of the electorate viewed the coal mine simply in terms of jobs.

Nature lovers, tourism operators and environmentalists worldwide have greeted the latest news with horror. Opponents say the project will fuel global warming and destroy the Reef. Those who support the project say it won’t.

“A Palaszczuk government decision to give a key environmental approval to Adani’s coal mine puts millions of corals and ocean wildlife on the state’s iconic Great Barrier Reef at risk,” the Australian Marine Conservation Council (AMCS) reiterated yesterday.

A pair of Barrier Reef Anemonefish (Amphiprion akindynos) and diver. Yankee Reef, Great Barrier Reef

AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaigner Shani Tager called it “a very bad decision for our Reef”.

“As custodians of the world’s greatest coral reef system, Queensland and Australia has to lead by example and show there’s a bright future for everybody that’s beyond coal,” Tager said.

“Instead, they’ve approved a new fossil fuel project which will put more pressure on our Reef.

“Climate change is the greatest threat to our Reef’s future and we cannot risk opening up the Galilee basin for other major coal projects which would heat our oceans and lead to more stress on our beautiful corals and Reef,” Tager said.

“Burning fossil fuels like coal is adding greenhouse gases to our atmosphere, that’s heating our oceans. To give our Reef a fighting chance, we need to keep this coal in the ground.

Perception is everything when it comes to Great Barrier Reef tourism. 

“The Reef is still a magnificent World Heritage icon and 64,000 tourism jobs depend on its health.

“Put simply, this decision is bad news for everyone who loves and relies on a healthy Reef and bad news for the dolphins, turtles, fish, sharks, rays and corals that call the Reef home – but the fight isn’t over.”

MEANWHILE, the concept of Adani as a big job creator is under attack. Some say the coal mine will create only a few hundred ongoing jobs.

Unlike tourism, coal mining is a small employer in Australia. Australia’s tourism industry employed 924,600 people directly and indirectly in 2016-17. That accounted for 8% of Australia’s total workforce. Coal mining employs less than half of 1% of the Australian workforce.

In fact:

  • 99.6% of Australian workers do not work in coal mining;
  • 98.9% of Queenslanders do not work in coal mining;
  • 95.7% of North Queenslanders do not work in coal mining.


Written by Peter Needham

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