Australia's Barrier Reef at center of debate on oil shale mining

April 25, 2013 at 3:41 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, April 25 (UPI) -- Mining for shale oil under the Great Barrier Reef is likely to be banned by the Australian Labor-led government, an environmental minister says.

Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke's remarks come in the wake of a decision by the Queensland state government to lift a moratorium on shale oil activities in most places along the state's coastline, The Guardian reported Thursday.

The Australian Greens party has attacked the decision as "environmental vandalism."

Some of the prospective shale oil deposits "are near and underlie the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area" and any exploration there would be "inconsistent with world heritage management principles," an environment department briefing to Burke said.

Federal management powers over the heritage areas could be used to halt such efforts if future mines extended to reserves under the reef, the briefing said.

Burke made his position on the issue clear.

"World Heritage principles on mineral extraction are absolutely clear," Burke told the Guardian. "You can't extract minerals or oil from underneath the Great Barrier Reef. Simple as that."

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said a shale oil industry would be a "win" for the state, creating jobs and income.

"I do accept the criticism about ... energy intensiveness, but at the end of the day we are running out of oil," he said at the time of the state's decision on the moratorium.

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