Northern Australian Aboriginals have launched a lawsuit to prevent South Korea from sponsoring a proposed deep-sea gas project.
They claim that a 300-kilometer gas pipeline will jeopardize their way of life and endanger turtles near their Tiwi Islands home.
Last Monday, Australia’s offshore energy authority partially cleared the Barossa gas development, which is located in the waters north of Darwin.
Santos, the world’s largest gas company, wants to start drilling wells in the coming months.
Santos plans to build an underwater gas pipeline beside Bathurst Island, the Tiwi archipelago’s westernmost island, if the project receives final permission. The pipeline will be 6 kilometers from the beach at its closest point.
Aboriginal communities from the Tiwi Islands, which are located north of Australia in the Timor Sea, claim they were not adequately consulted about the project.
The court case tries to prohibit the state-owned Export-Import Bank of Korea and the Korea Trade Insurance Corporation from financing around A$950 million (£530 million) to Santos.
On Wednesday, lawyers filed an injunction in the Seoul Central District Court under the Korean Civil Execution Act.
By forbidding the funding, it aims to avoid potential harm – either to the environment or to South Korea’s future financial condition if the project fails.
Lawyers claim that if the legal action is successful, the project’s financial sustainability will be jeopardized.
Jikilaruwu Francisco Babui and Daniel Munkara, clan chiefs on Tiwi Island, have accused Santos and the project’s former owner, ConocoPhillips, of ignoring the islanders’ concerns.
“According to Australian law and Aboriginal tradition, the Jikilaruwu tribe owns the sea land across which the gas pipeline will pass. We are the ones who make the decisions in that maritime country “In a statement made by the Stop Barossa Gas Campaign, Mr Munkara added.
“In 2018, we were briefed on the pipeline proposal and decided to reject it. It wasn’t going to happen, they said. Now we learn that Santos intends to build the pipeline without our permission across our marine territory.”