Australia's government has been on a tear against the environment this past year or so, but yesterday, it made one of its most sensible decisions in quite a while: It's decided that dumping a whole bunch of mud on the Great Barrier Reef is decidedly a bad idea.
Back in January, news came out that more than 3 million cubic meters of mud would be dredged from North Queensland's Abbot Point coal port to help expand the country's coal mining industry. And all of that mud was set to be dumped on the world's largest coral reef.
But after months of protests, Greg Hunt, Australia's Environment Minister, told a radio station that the country is seeking an alternative plan.
That's good news, but the massive coal port is still reportedly in the works. The multinational conglomerate of companies behind it, North Queensland Bulk Ports, GVK Hancock, and Adani Group, will submit alternative proposals to build the port, all of which will supposedly toss the mud somewhere on land. That's a more environmentally friendly decision, but it's one that's going to cost a lot more.
In any case, Australia's environmental record is abysmal under Prime Minister Tony Abbott—he's disbanded the country's Climate Commission, cut funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, overseen this Great Barrier Reef fiasco, and has proposed opening up a UNESCO-protected forest area in Tasmania for logging. Meanwhile, the country has gone from being one of the best in the world at solar energy to one where solar projects are being actively scrapped and considered too risky, even though the country, on average, gets the most sun of any place on Earth.
Abbott's government has repealed a carbon tax and greatly expanded the coal industry, which is why you're seeing companies want to invest so heavily in fossil fuels. The port is expected to add as many as 120 million tons of coal-shipping capability each year.
So, yes, it's great news that, literally, tons of mud won't be dropped onto the Great Barrier Reef. Australia has decided it's not a good idea to actively destroy an international treasure. But make no mistake, that's not the only threat the reef faces.