Queensland slams UNESCO, defends gas on the barrier reef

UNESCO has released its damning environmental report on the Great Barrier Reef, but the Queensland State Government hits back saying the report poses an obstacle to the multi-billion dollar seam gas business.

The report came in time when the mineral boom is underway and the Queensland Government is excited about financial gains. Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said his Government understands the issues raised in the report but could not accommodate some of its chief recommendations, News Corp. reports.

Newman said his government is in coal business and he is not going to see the economic future of Queensland shut down.

UNESCO sent a team of experts in March to assess the status of the reef confronted by both natural and man-made threats. While natural threats could be beyond control, the impact of the latter can be minimised if the Queensland Government can review and adopt strategic solutions.

The international body said the World Heritage listed site is under enormous pressure amid increased developmental activities, including additional port infrastructures in and around the Great Barrier Reef and ongoing management of major liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants at Curtis Island and Gladstone Harbour.

The dredging in Gladstone Harbour for the seam gas has been blamed by local environmentalists for the area’s poor water quality and a skin disease affecting marine life. Green activists say dredging has adversely affected whales and dugongs in the area.

UNESCO recommended to the State Government to stop port facilities expansions and to undertake a comprehensive review and strategic solutions to protect the Outstanding Universal Value of the reef.

It warned the reef could officially be listed “in danger” if the federal Government fails to convince the international body it has improved its performance before February next year.

Whether Queensland would be able to help improve environmental conditions of the reef or not, both state and federal governments have already given mineral explorations a go. Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke supports the developmental projects saying the approval of applications has been in full swing. He said there was not much he could do to prevent development applications already in progress.

Mining magnates Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart have likewise secured government’s approval of their mining ventures in Queensland. Further, the two mining lords have  been pressuring the Government to allow them to build the world’s largest coal export facility right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The facility is envisioned  to double Australia’s coal exports. The mining moguls expect to hear of Government’s decision in 36 weeks time, GetUp noted.

GetUp, an activist group, said mining billionaires are used to getting their way,” but they’re not the only ones who know how to fight.”  The group has forged a tie up with Greenpeace and BankTrack to undertake an advertising campaign in key financial market in Asia and India to warn potential investors not to invest in these projects.

It’s not just UNESCO who are against the massive expansion of coal and coal seam gas facilities. We’ve just released an opinion poll that found 79 per cent of  Australians are already concerned about the expansion of mining along the Reef’s recognised heritage area — and that was before UNESCO’s  scathing criticisms started to make headlines nationwide.

GetUp is optimistic the ad campaign will work.  It claims that  in 2009, it funded ads in the European Financial Times to discourage potential investors who were previously considering to fund Gunns’ pulp mill in Tasmania.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Advertisements

Great Barrier Reef awaits UN verdict

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area covers an area of 348,000 square kilometres and more than 2300 kilometres long

Green activists are expecting to hear the results of investigation on the Great Barrier Reef conducted by the joint mission of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The experts visited Australia from March 4-14 to probe into the current park’s environmental conditions, including alleged man-made threats posed by seam gas exploration projects.

The Greenpeace is nearly completing a signup campaign of 15,000 people while GetUp! intensifies it drive to gather a strong 75,000 strong petition to stop developmental aggressions.

“Imagine if the Pyramids were being bulldozed or the Grand Canyon mined – the global community would be furious,” GetUp!, a major environmental activists, said  in an email loop.

GetUp! is trying to construct a simile to compare these World Heritage sites to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Beautiful marine lives under threat (Photo: National Geographic)

Earlier, the UN team has already warned the Great Barrier Reef is posed “to die a thousand cuts” with various threats including growing population, mining boom, and gas explorations.  The team also intended to re-assess the overall outstanding value of the reefs.

The Australian committee of the IUCN has warned of a tenfold increase in shipping on the World Heritage Site associated with existing and proposed port development projects. Much of it will be going through channels within a marine park far narrower than the English Channel, the Crickey claimed.

The Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) approved the project in 2011 allowing  private contractors “to dredge 46 million cubic metres from within the harbour boundaries,  inside the World Heritage area, over the next 20 years…a volume equivalent to 27 Melbourne Cricket Grounds,” GetUp! argued.

Greenpeace welcomes underwater investigation

 News reports claimed the Federal Government and the Queensland State Government approved the project amid strong protests from local residents. Further, they said the United Nations which holds custody to the Heritage Park was not consulted on the project which is a breach of World Heritage guidelines.

A private law firm for Gladstone commercial fishing businesses warned that the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project has significant long term environmental impacts on a national scale.

Ridiculous as it may sound, but the lawyer’s group said the massive dredging activities occurs 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, for about 18 months.  It is estimated that 42,300,000 cubic metres of material is to be dredged over the construction phase which cause turbidity plumes in the Port area. Contaminants are also speculated to spread in the Port area which can destroy the Port’s ecosystems.

The lawyers estimated that dredging will cause the direct loss of around 902 ha of benthic habitat (including 258.8 ha of seagrasses).  An additional 5416 ha of benthic habitat (including 1406 ha of seagrasses) may be indirectly lost in the short to medium term. In summary, the group said close to 1,700 hectares of seagrass will likely be lost and 6,300 hectares of benthic habitat likely to be lost.   There are additional obstructions of the northern Western Basin due to construction and increased vessel traffic, including massive dredges may impede the migratory pathways of marine fauna using The Narrows and the entire Port Curtis region, the lawyers claimed.

Greenpeace intensifies on-site campaign

In 2011, a three-week fishing ban was imposed around the Gladstone area after sightings of fishes infected by unknown disease. Barramundi, for instance, were reported to have suffered from ‘sore’ and ‘cloudy’ eyes, while other fish appeared deformed and had bruises

The project is a partnership venture between Santos, Petronas, Total, and KOGAS. Santos is Australia’s largest domestic gas producer while PETRONAS is Malaysia’s national oil and gas company and the second largest LNG producer in the world. French energy major, Total, on the other hand, is the world’s fifth largest publicly traded integrated international oil and gas company; and South Korea’s KOGAS is the world’s largest buyer of LNG.

The partners announced the Gladstone Liquified Natural Gas (GLNG) project creates more than 5000 jobs during construction and about 1000 ongoing positions in the operational phase. They added that the project stimulates businesses and employment opportunities in the Gladstone and Roma regions through increased demand for goods and services.

Santos builds a LNG export facility in Gladstone for commercialised QLD seam gas resources. The facility is expected to  produce 3-4 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of LNG with future potential expansion to nominal 10 Mpta. The project is consists of CSG field development; gas transmission pipeline construction; and LNG liquefaction and export facility development.

The facility – built on Curtis Island (Hamilton Point area) – is close to the industrial deepwater port of Gladstone. The Project sources gas from Santos CSG fields around the Comet Ridge and Roma project areas, with gas being transported to the Gladstone LNG facility via subsurface 425 km gas transmission pipeline. Santos is planned to drill and complete the development wells to supply 53000 petajoules (PJ) (140 billion3) of CSG to the proposed LNG facility. There are about 600 wells to be dug prior to 2015 and 1400 or more wells after 2015 (excluding exploration wells). Installation of related infrastructures are constructed including access roads, accommodation camps, water gathering networks, water management facilities, in-field gas gathering networks (to transport gas from the wells to the field compression stations, gas compression stations and pipeline compressor stations).

A comparative size on the Great Barrier Reef

The gas transmission corridor is 425 km long underground gas transmission pipeline corridor will accommodate one or more pipelines for the delivery of fas from the CSG resouces to the facilty. Transmission pipelines nominal diametere 650-800 mm.

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area covers an area of 348,000 square kilometres — the equivalent size of Italy or Japan, more than 2300 kilometres long. It extends to the low water mark on the mainland coast along northern Australia. It Includes more than 3000 separate coral reefs, some 900 islands and all the waters within the outer boundaries of the Marine Park.

It is designated as national park in 1975 and listed in the UNESCO world heritage list for its invaluable in 1981

The UN report will be presented to the World Heritage Committee in June, which will then decide whether to list the reef as a World Heritage Site in Danger.

News Link: Asian Correspondent