Indigenous Australians complain about gas projects

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By Webdesk


Traditional landowners say pension funds are required to prevent “adverse human rights impacts” from energy projects.

A group of Indigenous Australians have filed a human rights complaint against 20 major Australian pension funds for investing in two Santos Ltd gas projects, putting pressure on the funds over their fossil fuel investment plans.

Three traditional landowners claimed in the complaint, filed directly with the pension funds on Wednesday, that the funds had “an obligation to avoid negative impacts on the human rights of companies in which they are invested”.

Indigenous communities claimed that the Barossa and Narrabri gas projects will threaten their culture and livelihoods and risk harming the environment, including by affecting animal reproduction patterns and breeding grounds.

A member of one of the funds has requested information under an Australian company law that requires the fund to justify its reasons for investing in Santos and the benefits, the complaint found.

Environmental, social and governance issues have increasingly affected investors in funds and companies, including forcing management changes at miner Rio Tinto after it destroyed culturally significant rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia for an iron ore mine in 2020.

Santos did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but has previously said it consults with all key stakeholders for all its projects.

Commonwealth Super Corp, AustralianSuper, Australian Retirement Trust, Aware Super and AMP – the top five pension funds – did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The 20 funds together manage more than A$1.7 trillion (US$1.13 trillion).

The move by the Indigenous landowners comes after the Gomeroi people appealed to Australia’s Federal Court in January over a permit for the A$3.6 billion (US$2.4 billion) Narrabri gas project in the state of New South Wales. The National Native Title Tribunal in December had given Santos permission to proceed with the project.

“We will not allow [the environment] to be damaged or desecrated to a point where it will not return to its natural state,” Karra Kinchela, a traditional landowner from Gomeroi, said in Wednesday’s statement.

A call from Santos to resume drilling for its A$3.6 billion (US$2.4 billion) Barossa gas project off the coast of northern Australia was rejected by federal court in December after Indigenous groups raised objections voiced.

Santos then said it would seek new approvals for its largest project in accordance with the court’s order.



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