Australia: Aboriginal group wins legal fight against vast gas project

Australia: Aboriginal group wins legal battle over massive gas project


An Aboriginal group in Australia successfully blocked plans to develop a massive new gas field off the country's northern coast, winning an appeal on Friday.  

Dennis Tipakalippa, a member of an Aboriginal community in the Tiwi Islands, is behind the complaint against Santos Group, one of the country's largest oil and gas producers, who wishes to launch a drilling program in the Timor Sea.

Mr. Tipakalippa and the Munupi clan fear that the Santos project will harm their maritime food resources, but also the spiritual connection they have with the region. 

In September, a court revoked the environmental approval of the gas company's project, ruling that indigenous groups had not been properly consulted. 

On Friday, the Australian Federal Court dismissed the Santos' appeal, saying the company was required to 'consult Mr. Tipakalippa and the Munupi clan because their interests could be affected' by the gas project. 

“Santos and all other gas companies need to take notice,” Mr. Tipakalippa stressed in a statement released by the Environmental Defenders Office. 

“We have fought to protect our “Sea Country” (maritime country, a term used to designate their territory at sea, editor's note) from start to finish and we will never stop fighting,” he said. 

While Santos will have to seek further approvals before it can start drilling, it is uncertain whether Friday's court ruling will be enough to permanently block the AUD$3.6 billion ($2.5 billion) project.

Santos also said on Friday that he still plans to extract gas from this field by 2025. 

The Tiwi Islands make up a sparsely populated archipelago, located about 80 kilometers off the coast of Darwin in northern Australia. 

Australian Aborigines links represent around 90% of the 2000 inhabitants of these islands, known for their art, their language and their passion for Australian rules football.