Reef authority has 10 days for Abbot Pt dredging decision

THE green light for a major dredging campaign on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef has put the Federal Government on the defensive and planted dollar signs in the eyes of mining companies, but like so many other bureaucratic nightmares, it still requires a permit.

Late on Tuesday, Environment Minister Greg Hunt approved the project that is the first step to expanding the port while simultaneously granting Indian mining giant Adani the right to build its own coal-loading terminal at Abbot Point.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, shortened to GBRMPA and pronounced "Groompa", now has 10 business days to decide if it will give the state-owned North Queensland Bulk Ports permission to dig up the coastline around Abbot Point.

It would include shifting 3 million cubic metres of material and dumping it in the reef national park.

This is one-third the size of earlier dredging campaigns run previously with little known impact on the reef.

If GBRMPA files its response on time, the final tick would come on Christmas Eve.

Adani's home-town rival GVK Hancock - co-owned by billionaire Gina Rinehart - has been desperate for a tick off on the dredging.

It tops off the stack of approvals it needed to start on its ambitions to simultaneously develop its mine, rail and port expansion.

GVK also plans to build coal-loading terminal at Abbot Point, despite owning the currently-existing loader.

The Australian Greens described the dredging as "the death knell for the Great Barrier Reef" while Environment Minister Greg Hunt said these were the most stringent environmental conditions ever imposed.

GVK managing director Gunupati Venkata Krishna Reddy said this was its "final ministerial approval" for its mining plans.

He said it would allow "billions of tonnes" of coal to be exported to Asia for burning, a comment likely to anger opponents of the plan.

Adani Mining chief Jeyakumar Janakaraj said the nod for its new terminal at Abbot Point and the dredging were just the start of its focus on Australia, with its projects to provide "many thousands of jobs".

When at their peak by the mid-2020s, the four mines from Adani and GVK will produce 120 million tonnes of coal per year - the equivalent of 1.6 million fully-laden coal wagons.