Korean bank pauses on Santos loan for Barossa Gas Project

Offshore gas drilling rig in the ocean with beautiful pink and blue sunset behind it (merger)
Offshore gas platform (Image: Shutterstock)

The state-run Export-Import Bank of Korea (Kexim) bank has delayed approval of a loan to Santos to develop its Barossa offshore gas project after being sued by Indigenous Australians who said the project would damage the local environment.

The delay and the pending court case have cast doubt on the future of the project, according to The Australian Financial Review.

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Tiwi Islanders last month applied for an injunction application in Korean courts that would prevent the Export-Import Bank of Korea (Kexim) and the Korea Trade Insurance Corp (K-Sure) from lending up to $931 million to fund the Barossa project.

The Islanders said Santos had not consulted them on building a 300km pipeline through the Tiwi sea north of Australia, leading from the offshore Barossa gasfield to a liquefied natural gas processing plant in Darwin.

At a March 31 meeting the Kexim board decided to delay its decision on the Barossa project loan, citing environmental and legal factors.

“The decision has been delayed as we consider many factors comprehensively, including the need for the project, environmental and legal risks and ways to reduce carbon emissions,” Kexim told the Financial Times.

“We are not sure when the decision will be made.”

Tiwi traditional owners said Santos sent two emails and made “one unanswered phone call” during the consultation period over the project. They also claim Santos and previous owner ConocoPhillips had misled them about the prospect of it going ahead at all.

“Santos people have never come to the Tiwi Islands to speak to us face to face. They did not tell us about any risks,” Francisco Babui, senior Tiwi traditional owner and plaintiff in the case, said in a statement.

“By taking the South Korean government to court to stop this gas project, we are protecting our family and our land.”

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Babui said the pipeline would disrupt the local ecosystem, particularly the habitats of turtles, which are culturally significant to the Tiwi people.

Santos said in a statement it had gone through all the consultation processes required by law. ConocoPhillips said the company had consulted relevant stakeholders and had “fully complied with regulatory obligations”.

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