Australia's Great Barrier Reef is one of the major drivers of international visitors.
Australia's Great Barrier Reef is one of the major drivers of international visitors. Darren Jew

Barrier Reef research a blessing for the mining industry

A SPRAWLING research effort into the Great Barrier Reef with satellite data spanning a decade could be a blessing for the mining industry with scientists saying nothing about ports, shipping or dredging.

The federally funded Australian Institute of Marine Science considered images showing the clarity of reef waters off the Burdekin Coast.

The area is north of the Abbot Point coal terminals where a major dredging operation has been approved by federal and state governments as part of a large-scale expansion.

The published research shows how flooding rivers have a major impact on reef water quality, lasting up to several months and spreading far beyond coastal waters.

Abbot Point is being developed by the Queensland Government's North Queensland Bulk Ports, with backing by a handful of mining companies, including those targeting the emerging coal provinces of the Galilee Basin.

The proposed coal mines, connecting rail lines and port projects have all met with strong opposition and legal challenges.

If they go ahead, they will provide tens of thousands of jobs and through the overseas processing of coal, millions of extra tonnes in carbon pollution.

AIMS research program leader Dr Britta Schaffelke said her findings showed flood events clouded reef waters, denying coral reefs and sea grasses the sunlight they need to survive.

Ensuring the catchment areas around the Burdekin River were kept rich with nutrients, clays would help keep farms productive and the reef waters clear.

Coral data spanning 27 years and published by AIMS in 2012 found storm damage and crown-of-thorns starfish were the major contributors to its destruction.

Just 10% of the reef's impacts were caused by bleaching, a result of rising ocean temperatures.