South Korean court rejects request to freeze loans to $3.6 billion Australian gas project

Band Sonali Paul

SEOUL/MELBOURNE, May 23 (Reuters)A South Korean court has rejected a claim by a group of Indigenous Australians to stop South Korean export credit agencies from funding a deep-sea gas pipeline for the $3.6 billion Barossa gas project off northern Australia.

In March, residents of the Tiwi Islands and traditional owners of Larrakia sought an injunction from the Seoul Central District Court to stop Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM) and Korea Trade Insurance Corp (K-Sure) from providing loans for the Barossa pipeline.

The Seoul Central District Court ruled on Friday that it had rejected the request to block loans to Australia’s $3.6 billion gas project, according to the court filing.

“We plan to look at various factors such as the need to import LNG as well as environmental factors to support the project,” KEXIM told Reuters.

K-Sure was not immediately available for comment. The Indigenous Australians group said they would comment later.

Indigenous groups said they were not properly consulted on the Barossa project and the proposed 260 kilometer (162 mile) pipeline that will connect offshore gas facilities to an existing pipeline that runs to Darwin.

KEXIM and K-Sure are considering loans and loan guarantees that could be worth around $700 million.

The Australian Santos Ltd STO.AX, operator of the Barossa development, which is expected to produce first gas in 2025, declined to comment on the matter. Project partners include private South Korean energy company SK E&S.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne, Heekyong Yang and Byungwook Kim in Seoul; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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