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Australia Blocks Proposed Coal Mine Near Great Barrier Reef

Australian environment minister Tanya Plibersek has blocked a proposed open-pit coal mine just six miles from the Great Barrier Reef, raising hopes among advocates that she will block other potentially destructive projects.

“I have decided not to approve the Central Queensland Coal Project because the risks to the Great Barrier Reef, freshwater creeks, and groundwater are too great,” Plibersek said. “Freshwater creeks run into the Great Barrier Reef and onto seagrass meadows that feed dugongs and provide breeding grounds for fish.”

Plibersek is the first environment minister to use her powers under Australia’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to block a coal mine, The Financial Review reports. The environment ministry is reviewing 18 other coal and gas projects.

The Central Queensland Coal Project would have consisted of two large open pits yielding up to 10 million metric tons of coal a year for 20 years or more. Environmentalists cheered its rejection.

“This is a victory for the Reef, for tourism, for communities that depend on the Reef for their livelihoods, and for all those who cherish this natural wonder,” Coral Rowston, of Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland, said in a statement. “If the Central Queensland Coal Project had been in operation last month when we were in flood, it would have pumped millions of liters of toxic wastewater directly into the Broad Sound fish habitat area — a vital nursery for many species vital to the Reef’s health and our fishery industry.”

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