Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park -- a supposedly protected natural area containing thousands of reefs, which together are visible from space and attract nearly $6 billion a year in tourism -- is a pretty terrible place to dump loads of silt. But it's happening: The federal agency that governs the reef approved plans to dump up to 3 million cubic meters of silt that will be dredged from the marine park to help carve a superhighway for tankers ferrying coal to Asia.
It's the final piece in Australian Prime Minister (and known climate denier) Tony Abbott's already-approved master plan to dredge the shipping lane, expand an existing coal terminal, and extensively mine the northeastern state of Queensland for coal.
Reuters reports that backers of the coal export project, including two Indian firms and the heiress to an Australian mining empire, hope to deliver an estimated $28 billion of coal to Asian markets once it's complete.
Dredging a new shipping lane through the reef to deliver all that coal will generate as much as 3 million cubic meters of silt. That's an abstract number, but, if you can imagine 150,000 dump trucks all dropping loads of sand into the sea, then you have a sense for the volume.