An Indian-Australian joint venture developing the world's biggest coal port in Australia may scrap a controversial plan to dump 3 million cubic metres of waste dredged from the ocean floor into the fragile Great Barrier Reef area amid global environmental outcry.
North Queensland Bulk Ports, GVK Hancock and Adani Group will re-submit a proposal as early as this week to Environment Minister Greg Hunt proposing alternative dumping sites on land.
The change is designed to neutralise controversy over potential damage to the reef and avoid a court case launched by the North Queensland Conservation Council.
The fresh proposal will supersede Hunt's previous approval of dumping the material in the ocean under strict conditions and restart the process, which could delay construction, The Australian Financial Review reported.
"We have encouraged and invited [an alternative proposal] and we'll see if they put it in, and then we'll assess it on its merits," Hunt said.
Hunt has long been lobbying for the change behind the scenes, according to sources. Last week local Liberal lawmaker George Christensen declared he had "got it wrong" in his support for the expansion project and called on the owners of Abbot Point to look at alternative onshore options.
While he supported the expansion in principle, he was concerned about the impact the court case would have on the long-term viability of the project and said he would listen to community concerns.
Australia's conservative government seven months ago approved dumping of up to 3 million cubic meters of so-called dredge spoils—roughly equivalent to the amount of stone in the Great Pyramid at Giza—to allow expansion of the Abbot Point coal port in Queensland state, adjacent to the reef.
But after the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation threatened in June to place the reef on a list of threatened heritage sites, the coal-port developers, came up with the new plan to dump the material on land.
The details of the resubmission are not yet known, though sources played down the likelihood that a disused area near the north Queensland town of Bowen could be used as a dumping site, the report said.