Indigenous Australians ask South Korean court to block loans to $3.6bn gas project

A sign for Santos Ltd is displayed on the front of the company’s office building in the rural township of Gunnedah in Australia’s northwest New South Wales March 9, 2018. REUTERS/ David Gray/File Photo

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MELBOURNE, March 24 (Reuters) – An Australian Indigenous group has gone to court in South Korea to stop the country’s export credit agencies from funding a deep sea pipeline for the 3.6 Barossa gas project. billion dollars in northern Australia.

Residents of the Tiwi Islands and traditional owners of Larrakia seek an injunction from the Seoul Central District Court to stop the Korea Export-Import Bank (KEXIM) and Korea Trade Insurance Corp (K-Sure) from granting loans.

They say they were not properly consulted on the project and that a planned pipeline will threaten turtles, dugongs and other marine life on which the islanders depend.

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“By taking the South Korean government to court to stop this gas project, we are protecting our family and our land,” Tiwi traditional owner Daniel Munkara, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement.

If loans and loan guarantees potentially worth around $700 million are blocked, it could delay the project, the groups said.

K-Sure declined to say whether it planned to fund the Barossa project, but said it “only supports projects that meet international environmental standards”.

KEXIM had no immediate comment.

The Barossa project, which is due to start producing gas in 2025, involves the construction of a pipeline of about 260 kilometers (162 miles) that will connect the offshore gas facilities to an existing pipeline that goes to Darwin.

The project is led by Australia’s Santos Ltd (STO.AX) and its partners include South Korean energy firm SK E&S.

Santos declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said the Barossa project had all necessary approvals in place.

“As is the case with all our projects, we are undertaking consultations with all key stakeholders where they receive detailed information about the project,” a Santos spokesperson said.

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Reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne; Additional reporting by Joyce Lee in Seoul; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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