Santos, an Australian energy company, faced a setback as an Australian court granted an interim injunction, halting the commencement of undersea pipeline works for its $3.6 billion Barossa gas project off the northern coast. The decision, prompted by a legal challenge from Simon Munkara, a traditional landowner from the Tiwi Islands, followed concerns over the potential impact on underwater cultural heritage sites.
Represented by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), Munkara and other indigenous elders emphasized the urgent need for a comprehensive assessment of the project's impact on ancestral sites, aboriginal art, and ancient burial grounds. The court will reconvene on November 13 to determine whether to extend the injunction until the final hearing, set to take place on an expedited basis.
While Santos plans to defend the court proceedings, it remains committed to the Barossa project's timeline and cost estimates, aiming to commence gas production by the first half of 2025. In response to concerns raised earlier, the company cited assessments from an independent expert, stating that no specific underwater cultural heritage sites were identified along the proposed pipeline route.
Despite the company's reassurances, the court's decision poses a significant obstacle for the Barossa gas project and represents a notable victory for Indigenous groups advocating against potential environmental damage and the erosion of cultural heritage. This legal intervention echoes a broader trend in Australia, with a recent federal court ruling suspending Woodside's seismic blasting activities for its $12 billion Scarborough gas project following objections from an Indigenous woman.