Indigenous Australians Seek to Block $3.6 billion Santos Offshore Gas project

June 7, 2022

World Energy Reports LLC.

A group of Indigenous Australians has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop Santos Ltd from developing a $3.6 billion gas project off northern Australia, saying they were not consulted about the drilling.

Traditional land owners from the Tiwi Islands said a lawsuit had been filed with the Australian Federal Court to set aside the drilling approval for the Barossa project from the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

"It's our land that's closest to the drilling site. We are the ones who are going to be affected," Tiwi Traditional Owner Dennis Tipakalippa, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Both Santos and NOPSEMA declined to comment on the lawsuit. NOPSEMA referred to its approval of the project, which said "consultation has taken place with relevant persons as required", including with community-based bodies such as the Tiwi Land Council and the Northern Land Council.

The move by the traditional owners comes after a South Korean court last month dismissed their application to block Export-Import Bank of Korea and Korea Trade Insurance Corp from providing loans for the Barossa project's pipeline. 

Partners in the project also include private South Korean energy company SK E&S.

The Barossa project, due to start producing gas in 2025, calls for the construction of a nearly 260 km (162 mile) pipeline to the west of the Tiwi Islands that will connect offshore gas facilities to an existing pipeline that runs to Darwin in the Northern Territory.

In the latest case, the traditional owners allege the drilling will threaten their culture, way of life, and food sources, affecting the breeding patterns and nesting grounds of turtles, dugongs, and whales.

Santos was required by law to consult with people who might be impacted by the drilling plans and since the company failed to do that, the decision by NOPSEMA is invalid, the lawyers for the Traditional Owners said.

Santos said in March that it undertakes consultation with all key stakeholders for all of its projects.  

(Reporting by Renju Jose; editing by Richard Pullin)

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