Australia's Santos Rejects Allegations of Human Rights Violations

Barossa - Credit: ConocoPhillips (File Photo) - ConocoPhillips sold its stake in the Barossa project to Santos in 2020
Barossa - Credit: ConocoPhillips (File Photo) - ConocoPhillips sold its stake in the Barossa project to Santos in 2020

Australian gas producer Santos Ltd said on Thursday it was categorically rejecting the allegations of human rights violations at its Barossa Gas project, Darwin LNG Life Extension project and Narrabri Gas project.

The company said some of its investors and financiers received a letter from Equity Generation Lawyers, a law firm active in climate-related cases, on behalf of up to nine individuals, alleging breaches of human rights of Tiwi Island, Larrakia and Gomeroi people arising from its projects.

The letter asked the financiers to exit loans and not proceed with any future approvals for the projects.

It asked the investors to "immediately begin to effectively exercise its leverage, on Santos to stop development of the Barossa, DLNG and Narrabri projects, or if this is not achieved within a reasonable time, divest".

The gas producer said the claimants have "not sought to have their grievances determined or remedied in a court of competent jurisdiction where Santos could properly respond".

Australian Indigenous people have deep spiritual connections to the Tiwi Islands and Larrakia country, and environmental groups have been campaigning for years against Santos' $3.6 billion project off northern Australia.

Environmental and Indigenous groups have concerns that the project would disrupt their songlines, sacred sites and cultural practices.

Santos had to suspend drilling on the Barossa project, in September, after a judge found that an environmental approval was invalid because the company had not properly consulted the Munupi clan.

"Santos' comment that grievances are to be addressed in a court of competent jurisdiction is absurd. It fails to grasp that banks and super funds in Australia have committed to international human rights standards that may go beyond domestic law," Equity Generation Lawyers said in a statement.

A group of Australian Indigenous people had lodged human rights grievances with a dozen banks in April, urging them to withdraw a $1 billion loan to Santos for its Barossa offshore gas project.

(Reuters - Reporting by Riya Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)

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