Largest port to kill the Barrier Reef

The “Asian Century” has arrived in Queensland. The world’s largest port will rise soon that will pave the link between the Australian state and Asian market– India in particular.

Aerial view Abbot Point T2 and T3

Aerial view Abbot Point T2 and T3

The Federal government gave the green light to the massive expansion of three major port terminals at Abbot Point, 26 km north of Bowen in Central Queensland– positioned to become one of the world’s largest industrial sea ports.

The approval gives Adani Enterprises Pty. Ltd. and GVK, among other mining companies, a breakthrough in the multi-billion coal industry which will exploit the potential of the coal-rich Galilee Basin.

Adani’s most recent performance at T0

Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced the decision on Tuesday after a ”rigid assessment” and the project’s environmental impacts. After a long delay, the minister approved four Queensland projects under the National Environmental Law, including the capital dredging program for the proposed Terminals 0, 2 and 3 at the Port of Abbot Point, the Adani T0 project, the Arrow Liquefied Natural Gas Facility on Curtis Island, and the Arrow Gas Transmission Pipeline to Curtis Island. The terminals will provide the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the ”bullish” coal industry within the Galilee Basin.

The approval of Terminal 0 (T0) is sure to boost Adani’s ambitious prospect to ship the coal to India. “Coal from this project will predominantly service the Indian market,”  Adani admitted. The group acquired the terminal for about two billion Australian dollars under a 99-year lease in 2011. T0 is estimated to have a 70 metric tonnes per annum mtpa (35 mtpa x two stages) handling capacity. T2 will be built by an Australian-own company, while T3 will be undertaken by GVK.

But the New York Times reported Adani bought the port in 2011 for 1.8 billion Australian dollars taking advantage of the area still recovering from a series of floods.

 “Abbott Point is our contribution to India’s global ambitions,” said Gautam Adani, chair of Adani. Adani. “An Indian billionaire and real estate magnate, runs the largest private sector coal importer in India, a country hungry for energy resources. He already has other investments in Queensland….”

The T0 alone is projected to generate  a financial value of A$ 1.4 – 2.8 billion annually in gross revenue which will contribute significantly to the Queensland and Australian economy. It will directly benefit Bowen locality and the wider Whitsunday region, Adani said in its presentation paper earlier this year.

Estimated employment stands at 500 jobs in construction and 200-250 jobs in operation, while it provides opportunity for expansion of permanent working population at the Port of Abbot Point. This projection, however, is based on the estimated export of thermal coal from Adani’s Carmichael Coal Mine and Abbot Point Coal Terminal 0 projects.

GVK, on the other hand, will undertake the expansion of  T3  port facilities and Galilee Basin coal assets including the Alpha, Alpha West and Kevin’s Corner coal projects. It will also construct a rail connection to the Abbot Point Port. “Together with the previously received clearances for the Alpha mine, the rail to Abbot Point ,GVK Hancock has solidified its leading position in the Galilee Basin of Queensland, Australia, ” the company said in a press release.

GV Sanjay Reddy, Vice Chairman  of the GVK Power & Infrastructure Limited, said the approval will enable the “provision of billions of tonnes of high quality, low sulphur, low ash, and cleaner burning coal for consumption in the Indian and Asian market.” He added, “this approval takes our projects in to the final stageof project development and we look forward to successfully developing and consolidating our position as the leading Indian infrastructure development company.”

The North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation  (NQBC) has been commissioned as the port authority responsible for managing the project.

The extensive industrial projects along the eastern coast of Queensland. The darker blue line sketches the boundary of the world heritage area (Image: Fight for the Reef)

State Premier strengthens economic ties with India

The Galilee Basin is strengthening the economic ties between Queensland and India. Premier Campbell Newman admitted the potential of the region which could be a bigger contributor to Queensland’s economy than the coal seam gas industry.

Newman had visited Adani’s operation in India and believes in the export potential of the region. Further, he considers a long-term strategic business partnership with Indian companies. Mining Australia quoted him as saying, “They want coal to come for their thermal power stations day in, day out, week in, week out, month after month, for not 10 years or 20 years or 50 years; they want it to come for 70 to 100 years” .

On Gautam Adani, Newman is mesmerized with his business empire-building enthusiasm: “He owns the power lines, he owns the retail, he wants that coal. Now, the current coal price is not really a big thing in his calculations,” Newman said. “What he wants is supply security, and he wants to get that supply chain cost down as low as possible.”

Environmental concerns

Greenpeace lambasts the dredging and dumping of industrial waste into the vicinity of the reef.

Environmental groups, however, are enraged with the developments.

The terminals will require dredging of about three million cubic meters of sediments from the bottom of the sea. Local communities and environmental groups are outraged on how and where would the dredging spoils be dumped. The long-term effect after the area after the mining projects is also a matter of concern.

Hunt said he made an agreement with the Gladstone Ports Authority that they will not dispose of up to 12 million cubic metres of spoil within the Marine Park, but will instead use the material for land infill.

Hunt and Newman are already under fire from Green groups. The WWF, for one, is now pressing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park not to issue a permit to the NQBPC to dump the dredge spoil into the reef waters.

The WWF-Australia, in partnership with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, has also launched a nationwide and international campaign, Fight for the Reef, that educates people about the implication of the large-scale industrialization of Australia’s east coast- more significantly its impact on the world-listed heritage site – the Great Barrier Reef.

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Northern Australia poised to meet the Asian era?

Re-blogging:

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott indicated yesterday he is ready for the Asian Century.

If he wins in the federal poll this coming September, his coalition government will map out plans to fast-track the development of Australia’s northern regions- from Cairns in Queensland to Broome in Western Australia. This will lay the groundwork for linking Australia’s tropics to Asia. It will be Abbott’s priority within the first 12 months in office.

Northern Australia’s farmland which could be transformed into a food bowl of Australia and Asia. (Photo: Supplied)

The Coalition’s 2030 Vision for Developing Northern Australia, which was released Friday, highlights his plans. Topping the list is to develop the long-standing dream of many free-market economists and politicians to transform Northern Australia into a food bowl which will feed not only Australians, but also neighbouring Asians.

Abbott said the coalition wants to “capitalise on Northern Australia’s existing strengths and natural advantages in agriculture”—along with energy development, tourism opportunities, education and health services. Noting the economic forecast in the region, he said,

With Asia’s real GDP expected to grow from US$27 trillion to US$67 trillion by 2030 and Northern Australia’s proximity to the tropical region, Northern Australia is well placed to capitalise on the significant economic, strategic and environmental macro-trends that will shape both the Asian and tropical regions.

The food bowl mega-dream will include premium produce which could help to double Australia’s agricultural output.

A tractor ploughs through the vast land of Western Australia. (Photo: Supplied)

The resurrected food bowl plan, however, backfired from environmental groups.

The Wilderness Society (WS), for one, repulses the plan saying that past projects have failed. It said that while billion of dollars have been ploughed through large-scale irrigation projects, they were all doomed. Examples are the Humpty Doo in the Northern Territory and the Ord and Camballin in Western Australia, respectively.

The Society notes the Ord, the poster child of the northern food bowl,  has “been a monumental flop.” The government invested more than $1.3 but large-scale cropping for rice, sugar, cotton, and other crops have failed.

It also said that in 2010, rice failed in 12 months after being reintroduced in the Ord while the cotton industry collapsed after 12 years.

In 2007, former Samsung subsidiary Cheil Jedang shut down its unprofitable sugar mill. The Ord has now been given to a Chinese hotel developer for a “pittance in the vain hope he can succeed in the sugar business where the Korean food giant failed.”

Almost half the Ord is now planted with sandalwood for incense and perfume ‑ hardly useful for feeding Asia.

Crops in this northwestern region. (Photo: Supplied)

The Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce (NALWT) earlier released a sustainability report that finds no scientific evidence to support a food bowl vision for the north. The landscape is limited by poor soils, water availability and harsh climatic conditions.

The WS said recent research by the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge group (TRaCK) at Charles Darwin University has backed up previous substantial analysis showing the case for a sustainable northern food bowl does not exist.

Northern Australia is a graveyard for failed agricultural projects. There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the northern Australia food bowl fantasy.

Rob Law from Melbourne University earlier wrote in The Conversation that the nation’s psyche has been obsessed with the vision for Northern Australia’s food bowl.  He notes it never left the minds of southern developers and politicians as well as other “visionaries.” The vast scope of northern land covers the vast and intact  savanna ecosystems across northern Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

The Institute of Public Affairs, a free-market economy think-tank, highlights “the north remains underdeveloped and it is fantastic that the Coalition is looking to unleash its potential.”

By contrast, the NT Environment Centre  pointed out that “the north is a graveyard for failed agricultural projects inspired by ‘visionary’ southern politicians”.

Law predicted that if a coalition government wins in the 2013 election, “it is likely a new battle will be played out on familiar ground.”

The WS’s response: Abbott’s northern food bowl idea is doomed to be an expensive failure and repeat mistakes of past.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott announces his coalition’s 2030 vision. (Photo: Alex Ellinghausen/Canberra Times)

National Director Lyndon Schneiders said Northern Australia needs new infrastructure and sustainable development opportunities but the north will never be the food bowl of the world, Asia or even Australia. He adds,

“This is bad policy, written with purely political objectives and dressed up as vision, with no costings and no hard commitments. The main point of this policy announcement seems to be currying favour with Australia’s richest person, Gina Reinhart, and to stem vote leak in northern Australia to the Katter Party and Clive Palmer’s United Party.”

Schneiders  suggests that rather than pursuing the “northern myth,” the coalition should be looking at ways to increase support and productivity for sustainable agriculture in southern Australia.

The Society welcomes proposals to increase investment in tourism but questions how destroying the north’s greatest asset, its extraordinary wilderness environments, to make farmland, is compatible with realising its tourism potential, including recreational tourism such as fishing.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent