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Coal spill further evidence of export threat to Great Barrier Reef

Wed 8 February 2017

A large coal spillage discovered near the Great Barrier Reef will have devastating effects on marine life – a sadly unavoidable consequence of increased coal mines and export ports.

The Queensland Government confirmed today that the coal originated from a ship loader at the Hay Point Port, according to the ABC [1]. An investigation was launched following complaints that coal and fine black dust was washing up on beaches in Mackay, Northern Queensland. 

Coal can kill coral – adding even further pressure to our Great Barrier Reef, already recovering from 2016’s worse ever bleaching event.

Australian Marine Conservation Society's Great Barrier Reef Campaigner Cherry Muddle said the report of coal spillages at Hay Point is disturbing.

"Last year scientists at James Cook University, Townsville found that corals exposed to coal dust died within two weeks [2]", she said. "It is unacceptable for coal spills to occur anywhere in our oceans - let alone a World Heritage Area. Also, our Reef is already under serious threat from global warming and pollution.               

"Last summer above average sea surface temperatures killed 22% of corals 22% of corals [3] in the Great Barrier Reef. We simply cannot allow polluting industries to further threaten our precious Reef. 

"The Great Barrier Reef provides 69,000 jobs and $6 billion to the Queensland economy. A decision to protect our Reef is a decision to protect our tourism industry, livelihood and future,” Ms Muddle said. 

Images are available on request.


Notes to editors:

[1] ABC Exclusive report on Queensland government’s investigation into coal spillage at Hay Point can be found:

[2] Results from James Cook University research into coal, seawater and coral deaths can be found here: 

[3] Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority update on coral bleaching can be found here:


For further details contact:

Media and Communications, Australian Marine Conservation Society

+61 (0) 412 505 405,    


Cherry Muddle, Great Barrier Reef Campaigner - Australian Marine Conservation Society

+61 (0) 429 085 047,   


Image: Hay Point Coal Port © Tom Jefferson, Greenpeace 

Coal spill near Great Barrier Reef confirmed to be from Hay Point Coal Port ship. Image © Tom Jefferson, Greenpeace  

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