The Port of Abbot Point is of significant strategic value to North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation, as there are very few locations along Queensland's eastern seaboard where deep water (>15m) is so close in-shore. However, the port's location is controversial as it is so close to the Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO world heritage site. There are concerns that the reef and its animal life may be harmed by the ships transporting the coal as they transit the reef to and from the port.
India's Mundra Port signed a 99-year lease on Abbot Point Terminal 0 in 2011. The deal cost Adani Group $1.83 billion. Adani is seeking to expand the terminal to allow another 35 million tonnes of thermal coal exports per year, on top of the current 50 million tonnes of capacity.
The port is planned to provide export facilities for coal mined from the Galilee Basin. The terminal is being expanded with the addition of a second wharf and shiploader as well as an additional onshore stockyard and machines. Once completed it will be the largest coal port in the world.
In May 2012, the expansion plans were scaled back, with only two new wharves being built instead of six. The scaling down of the project came after Rio Tinto announced its withdrawal. BHP Billiton and Hancock Coal are expected to use the second and third terminals.
An environmental assessment which included a review of 16 environmental studies, found the port's expansion would not have a significant impact on the Great Barrier Reef and that Greenpeace's claims regarding the expansion's impact were overstated. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Protection Authority (GBRMPA) advised minister Greg Hunt not to approve dredging for the Abbott Point coal port expansion. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act was amended so that government does not have to consider expert advice before approving major developments such as mines and ports.