A $20 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Australia’s far northwest will be a “game changer” for Darwin, federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson says. The Ichthys LNG project, a joint venture between Japan’s Inpex and France’s Total, is planned to draw gas from the Browse Basin offshore from Western Australia’s Kimberley region and process it in Darwin.
The Top End’s capital is set for a massive financial boost from the project. “A joint venture decision to proceed with Ichthys would be a game changer for Darwin,” Mr Ferguson told the South East Asia Australia Offshore Conference in Darwin on Thursday. Inpex general manager for Darwin, Sean Kildare, said there were “no roadblocks” to the joint venture making a final decision to proceed by the end of the year, with environmental approvals already in place.
“There are no show stoppers or bottlenecks that would cause a substantial delay to delivering Ichthys’ FID (final investment decision),” Mr Kildare told the conference. “The FID for the Ichthys project is scheduled for the end of this year, with first gas exports scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2016.”
But for Western Australia, it’s a painful reminder of what might have been. Inpex’s decided to pipe the gas over 850km to Darwin, instead of building the plant on the Maret Islands, about 200km north of Broome, after it failed to seal agreements for a processing site in WA’s pristine Kimberley region.
WA Premier Barnett has blamed the federal Labor government, the former WA Labor government and the indigenous Kimberley Land Council (KLC) for the outcome. But the Kimberley is now the centre of a fierce campaign of opposition to Woodside Petroleum’s planned Browse LNG processing hub at James Price Point, even though the KLC has accepted $1.5 billion in benefits for Aboriginal communities in exchange for rights to the land, north of Broome. Mr Ferguson on Thursday condemned protesters who have distributed newsletters containing racial slurs about Aboriginal leaders who support the project.
“Some of the behaviours and actions that we have seen in Broome and on the road to James Price Point have been absolutely unacceptable and completely lacking in the respect that is so clearly due,” Mr Ferguson told the conference. “There will always be a right to peaceful protest but there is no place for racial vilification in Australia, and I condemn those that have engaged in this basest of behaviour.”
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