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Indigenous Australians take South Korea financiers to court over Barossa LNG project

© Supplied by ShutterstockSouth Korea and Australian flags
South Korea and Australian flags

Traditional landowners in Australia’s Northern Territory have launched legal action against South Korea’s export credit agencies in an attempt to block funding for the Santos-led $3.6 billion Barossa gas project, which will backfill the Darwin liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant.

People from the Tiwi Islands and Larrakia Traditional Owners are seeking an injunction from the Seoul Central District Court to block the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM) and the Korea Trade Insurance Corp (K-Sure) from providing loans.

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

“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.

Lawyers acting on their behalf have filed the injunction in the Seoul court to try to prevent South Korean export agencies providing almost A$1 billion in loans for the Barossa gas project, reported ABC.

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

The Barossa project, due to start producing gas in 2025, calls for the construction of a roughly 260 kilometer (162-mile) pipeline that will connect offshore gas facilities to an existing pipeline that runs to Darwin.

The project is led by Australia’s Santos (ASX:STO) and partners include South Korean energy company SK E&S.

Gas giant in Korea accused by activists of greenwashing over Australian LNG

Santos declined to comment on the legal action but said the Barossa project has all the necessary approvals in place, said Reuters.

“As is the case for all of our projects, we undertake consultation with all key stakeholders where they receive detailed information about the project,” a Santos spokesperson said.

South Korea’s largest private gas provider SK E&S was also facing legal action from a climate activist group alleging that it falsely advertised the green credentials of the Santos-led Barossa liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Australia, Energy Voice reported last December.

The Barossa project took a final investment decision in March 2021 and is progressing on schedule and budget for first LNG in the first half of 2025, Santos said late last year. The project comprises a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel, subsea production wells, supporting subsea infrastructure and a gas export pipeline tied into the existing Bayu-Undan to Darwin LNG pipeline.

The participants in the Barossa project are Santos (50% and operator), SK E&S (37.5%) and JERA (12.5%).

The participants in Darwin LNG are Santos (43.4% and operator), SK E&S (25% ), INPEX (11.4%), Eni (11%), JERA (6.1%) and Tokyo Gas (3.1%).

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