Federal Court rejects an appeal by Santos gas company to resume drilling on its $3.6 billion gas drilling project in the Timor Sea off the country's northern coast.
A group of Indigenous Australians have successfully stalled plans to develop a massive new gas field off the country's northern coast.
Australia's federal court dismissed an appeal by Santos on Friday, finding the company was obliged to "consult Mr. Tipakalippa and the Munupi clan because they had interests that may be affected".
Dennis Tipakalippa, an Indigenous elder from the remote Tiwi Islands, has been fighting a legal battle against Santos, one of the country's largest oil and gas producers, which wants to begin a drilling project in the Timor Sea.
Tipakalippa and the Munupi clan raised concerns that the Santos project could wreck important ocean food sources, and blight their connection to a spiritually significant area.
In September a court essentially revoked environmental approval for the gas company's project, saying Indigenous communities had not been properly consulted.
Three Federal Court judges ruled that Santos had not consulted all the indigenous people on the Tiwi Islands that should have been consulted for its environmental plan, backing a challenge brought by a member of the Munupi clan.
“Santos should have respected us and consulted in the proper way. They think they can just go ahead with drilling our sea country without even talking to us. Enough is enough.” - Traditional Owner & Plaintiff Dennis Tipakalippa. https://t.co/55708XRLZh— @EDOLawyers@climatejustice.global (@EDOLawyers) June 7, 2022
Tipakalippa, in a statement released by the Environmental Defenders Office, said "Santos and every other gas company must take note".
"We have fought to protect our sea country from the beginning to the end and we will never stop fighting," he said.
While Santos will need to seek new approvals before drilling, it was not clear if the court ruling would be enough to permanently derail the $2.5bn project.
Santos said on Friday it still expected to be pumping gas out of the field by 2025.
The Tiwi Islands are a sparsely populated archipelago lying about 80 kilometres off the coast of Darwin in northern Australia.
Indigenous Australians make up about 90 percent of the 2,000-strong population on the islands, which are known for their distinctive art, language, and love of Australian rules football.