APPROVAL of a major new development at Abbot Point to export coal from the $6.9 billion GVK-Hancock Coal Alpha mine project was welcomed by the industry on Tuesday.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke approved the second stage of the Alpha Coal project, making way for the third coal export terminal at the Central Queensland port.
But his decision met with harsh criticism from Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters, who dubbed him the "minister against the environment".
Mr Burke said the port expansion would be subject to 60 strict conditions to protect the national environmental significance of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
Among the conditions was a rigorous assessment process, as well as a seagrass offset package for the marine environment which would be damaged as part of the port expansion.
Other conditions for the approval included management plans for the Caley Valley wetland, water and air quality at the site as well as shipping traffic offshore.
Mr Burke said the approval of the port expansion was consistent with the World Heritage Committee's decision not to approve any new ports outside the existing port areas.
The committee's decision came after previous approvals by Mr Burke were found to have flouted UNESCO's rules about protection of the reef, leading to a Strategic Assessment needing to be done of all approvals in or near the world heritage area.
Senator Waters said Mr Burke's justification was an incomplete reading of the WHC decision, which said no new approvals for near the reef were allowed until that Strategic Assessment of the cumulative impacts was complete.
She said Mr Burke's decision was further evidence that neither the Labor Party nor the Coalition were willing to stand up and protect the reef.
But Mr Burke said the GVK-Hancock Coal joint venture would have to "fully reflect the findings of the final cumulative impact study", which was due for release later this year.
The approval was welcomed by the Queensland Resources Council, of which majority share-holder in the Alpha project, GVK, is a member.
QRC chief executive Michael Roche said the approval marked an "important milestone" in the development of the Galilee Basin.
Mr Roche said the project would add $1 billion in royalties to the Queensland Government's coffers each year it was operating.