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Coral or coal decision looms for Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Published on Jan 30, 2014 4:05 PM

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Australia's Great Barrier Reef watchdog is to decide by Friday whether to allow millions of cubic metres of dredged mud to be dumped near the fragile reef to create the world's biggest coal port and possibly unlock US$28 billion (S$36 billion) in coal projects.

A dumping permit would allow a major expansion of the port of Abbot Point for two Indian firms and Australian billionaire miner Gina Rinehart, who together have US$16 billion worth of coal projects in the untapped, inland Galilee Basin.

The Galilee Basin could double Australia's thermal coal exports and see it overtake Indonesia as the world's top coal exporter, further fuelling China's power plants and steel mills that have underpinned Australia's decade-long mining boom.

If the permit is not granted it would add to uncertainty over US$28 billion in proposed Galilee Basin projects, already delayed due to difficulty raising funds with coal prices down.

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