A group of Australian First Nations peoples has raised human rights grievances with 12 banks, urging them to withdraw a $1bn loan to Australian oil and gas producer Santos.

The loan would finance the company’s Barossa offshore gas project, located off thecoast of the Northern Territory north of Darwin. The project is a joint venture between ConocoPhillips, Barossa, SK E&S Australia and Santos.

The A$3.6bn project has been the subject of environmental campaigning for a number of years. In December last year, Australia’s Federal Court rejected an appeal by Santos to resume drilling for the project as indigenous people living in the Tiwi Islands had not been consulted with the plans.

Six Tiwi Islands Traditional Owners and one Larrakia Traditional Owner have filed human rights grievances with 12 Australian and international banks. The claim has been brought forward with assistance from Equity Generation Lawyers, which has supported several climate cases in the past.

In addition to the $1bn Santos loan, the lawsuit also concerns proposed lending for the redevelopment of the Darwin liquified natural gas project. The project lies in the Bayu-Undan Gas Field, located 250km off the southern coast of East Timor and 500km off the coast of Darwin, Australia.

The complaints have been sent to Australia’s top four banks: The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank (NAB) and Westpac. Additionally, complaints have been sent to financial institutions and export credit agencies in Europe, North America, Japan and South Korea.

Both NAB and ANZ have said that they received the grievances and will resolve them in line with company policy. Recipients have been requested by lawyers to respond before the 16 May.

Indigenous peoples asserting climate rights

Vidhya Karnamadakala, an associate from Equity Generation Lawyers, said that: “[Indigenous people] have a right to say no, and they are asking banks to stop funding Santos.” He went on to say that the ANZ “has human rights policies to ensure it avoids funding projects like Barossa”.

Santos has not yet responded to Offshore Technology’s request for comment.

According to the complaints, First Nations peoples’ spiritual connection with the Tiwi Islands and Larrakia country would not be respected should the project go ahead. The works would impact walking routes linking important sites and locations, sacred sites and cultural practices.

Santos has been met with growing legal challenges against the Barossa project including new restrictions to projects with high carbon content from the Australian government.