Barrier Reef dumping plan backed
A plan to dump vast amounts of dredged mud on Australia's Great Barrier Reef as part of a major coal port expansion has been approved by a government agency.
Environmentalists say it will endanger one of the world's most fragile ecosystems.
The federal government in December approved the expansion of the Abbot Point coal port in northern Queensland.
The expansion requires a massive dredging operation to make way for ships entering and exiting the port. Around three million cubic metres (106m cubic ft) of dredged mud will be dumped within the marine park.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority today approved the dumping permit application. The marine authority says strict conditions will be placed on the dredging disposal.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt has vowed that "some of the strictest conditions in Australian history" will be in place to protect the reef from harm, including water quality measures and safeguards for the reef's plants and animals.