The biggest bank in Germany has refused to provide funds for the expansion of the Abbot Point port in Queensland on the grounds of its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef.

Deutsche Bank AG has announced that it will heed calls issued by both environmental groups and marine operators to refuse financing for the further development of Queensland’s Abbot Point port.

At the bank’s annual meeting last week, Deutsche Bank co-chief executive Juergen Fitschen cited UNESCO’s concerns as a key reason behind its decision to refrain from any additional funds for the project, despite the fact that the bank helped to refinance the lease on Abbot Point.

“As we have seen, there is currently no consensus between UNESCO and the Australian government regarding the expansion of Abbot Point in the vicinity of the Great Barrier,” said Fitschen. “Our policy requires such a consensus at the least..we therefore would not consider applications for the financing of an expansion any further.”

Juergen Fitschen

Juergen Fitschen

The Port of Abbot Point is undergoing a major overhaul to transform it into one of the world’s largest coal ports, capable of handling the output of some $26 billion in mining projects in the Galilee basin.

The port is situated just 25 kilometres to the north of the Queensland coastal town of Bowen, at the northern end of the Galilee and Bowen coal basins.

Environmental groups and tourism operators have lobbied assiduously to scupper further development of the port due to concerns over its impact upon the Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site which is esteemed as one of the great wonders of the natural world.

Campaigners against the port’s expansion have urged Deutsche Bank, Societe Generale and HSBC to refuse financial backing for related coal projects.

The slated expansions, which are being led by BHP Billiton and Hancock Coal, will see the construction of a second wharf and ship loader, as well as onshore stockyards and machines.

The scheme will entail the dumping of 3 million cubic metres of dredged soil at a location around 25 kilometres from the Great Barrier Reef and will result in a dramatic increase in cargo traffic through the area in future.

The government has pushed hard for the project, amending the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act so that it no longer mandates the consideration of expert advice prior to the approval of major developments such as ports and mines.

This legislative tinkering may have been unnecessary, however, as an environmental assessment encompassing a review of 16 different studies concluded that development of the port would not have a major impact on the Great Barrier Reef, and that the concerns of green campaigners were heavily overstated.