The history of Abbot Point Port, North Queensland, Australia

Abbot Point Port, located in North Queensland, Australia, is one of the most important coal ports in the state. It is notable for being the most northerly of the deepwater coal ports in the country, and there are very few comparable ports along the Eastern coast which offers in-shore deep water suitable for coal shipping.

While the first discovery of coal in Australia dates back to 1857 in Victoria, there wasn't a discovery in Queensland until almost a decade later in 1864, at the Blair Athol coal field in the Bowen Basin, with the first open cut mine opening there some seventy years later in 1937. Up until that point, all of the coal being mined in Australia was for domestic use, but the first coal exports from the Bowen Basin region were made in 1959.

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The significance of Abbot Point dates back to the early 1980s when the Government of Queensland gave approval for a deepwater port to be developed in 1981 to allow for the exporting of coal from the nearby Collinsville, Newlands and Sonoma Mines. Part of the Newlands coal rail network they are connected to the coal laden Bowen Basin area of Queensland, and the port development had an initial expected capacity of 6.5 million tons per year.

The Abbot Point Port itself was developed three years later, officially commencing operation on 25th February 1984, and is home to coal handing and rail transport facilities, coal storage areas, ship loaders, a jetty, and offshore berths. All of this is located almost three kilometres inland.

When it was first opened, the facility was overseen by the Harbours Corporation of Queensland, and operated by Abbot Point Bulkcoal Pty Ltd. Since that time, Harbours Corporation has become most recently known as North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation.

Since its initial opening, the use of Abbot Point has grown considerably to the point that it has now reached an operating capacity where it is exporting 50 million tons of coal every year. Considerable expansion is now needed to meet the portís needs.

There are controversial expansion plans under way for the port that would increase its output capacity to 85 million tons of coal per year, adding additional storage, six additional wharves and increasing the size to transform it into what would make it the world's largest coal port.

This had raised significant environmental concerns and revised plans were put forward in May 2012 proposing just two new wharves. A series of environmental assessments were conducted which concluded that there were would be no impact on the Great Barrier Reef from the expansion, contrary to claims that had been made by Greenpeace.

Government approval was finally granted in October 2012 for Hancock Coal who had been one of the driving forces behind the expansion, on the condition that they undertook a package of remedial environmental work in the area surrounding the site of the Port.

Coal export from the newly expanded area of the facility is expected to commence in 2016.

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