A group of Australian Indigenous people has lodged human rights grievances with 12 Australian and international banks urging them to withdraw a $1 billion loan to Santos Ltd for its Barossa offshore gas project.
Environmental and Indigenous groups have been campaigning for years against the $3.6 billion project off northern Australia, and a top court order in December asked Santos to consult Indigenous people on the Tiwi Islands about the project's environmental plan.
Six Tiwi Islands Traditional Owners and one Larrakia Traditional Owner filed human rights grievances with 12 Australian and international banks, with the assistance of Equity Generation Lawyers, a law firm active in climate-related cases, the group said in a statement to the media.
Santos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The complainants are calling on the banks to pull out from the US$1 billion (A$1.5 billion) loan to the Barossa project, and not to participate in a proposed loan for the related Darwin LNG project.
The complaints were sent to Australia's top four banks: ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank, and Westpac. The banks did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.
The complaints were also sent to a number of overseas financial institutions and export credit agencies in Europe, North America, Japan and South Korea.
The complainants said Indigenous people have deep spiritual connections to the Tiwi Islands and Larrakia country, and the Santos project would disrupt their songlines, sacred sites and cultural practices.
Santos had to suspend drilling on the Barossa project, which is about 140 km (87 miles) north of the Tiwi Islands, in September after a judge found that an environmental approval was invalid because the company had not properly consulted the Munupi clan.
Equity Generation Lawyers said it had asked the complaints' recipients to respond by May 16.
($1 = 1.4756 Australian dollars)
(Reuters - Reporting by Praveen Menon - Editing by Edmund Klamann)
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