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Australian Aboriginals Seek `Economic Partnerships’ in LNG

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Bloomberg: Australian Aboriginals Seek `Economic Partnerships’ in LNG

By Angela Macdonald-Smith

April 30 (Bloomberg) — Australian aboriginal groups will seek “economic partnerships” with ventures planning to develop liquefied natural gas projects in the far northeast, the head of a group representing indigenous communities in the region said.

Such alliances are the best way to ensure “responsible development” of the gas reserves in the Browse Basin, which could yield A$20 billion ($19 billion) a year in revenue for more than 50 years, Wayne Bergmann of the Kimberley Land Council said today in Canberra. The government needs to help ensure indigenous people benefit from the resources “boom,” he said.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Inpex Holdings Inc. and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. are among companies proposing to develop LNG export projects using gas from fields in the Browse Basin. Western Australian Premier Alan Carpenter has said LNG plants can’t be built in the onshore Kimberley region without the consent and participation of local indigenous people.

“We will demand cultural and environmental outcomes from any development, and if the traditional owners are not satisfied with these outcomes, then there will be no deal,” Bergmann said in an address to the National Press Club, e-mailed to Bloomberg News. “We cannot have world-class resource development in our region and our people live in third-world conditions. This is not acceptable.”

An agreement brokered by the Kimberley Land Council with Rio Tinto Group’s Argyle diamond mine to allow an underground expansion includes indigenous employment targets, start-up funding for small business proposals and a fund to provide income once the mine has closed, Bergmann said.

Aboriginal Communities

That site now employs 192 indigenous people, injecting about A$12 million a year into aboriginal communities in the region, where health and life expectancy lag behind non-aboriginal Australians and the suicide rate is among the highest in the country, he said.

“I must say that Argyle is small in comparison to the potential gas developments,” Bergmann said.

Inpex, Japan’s largest oil explorer, has held talks with the council on consent for the development of the Ichthys LNG project on the Maret Islands off the Kimberley coast. An LNG “hub” on the Kimberley mainland is one of Perth-based Woodside’s three preferred options for its Browse project. Shell said it may use a floating LNG design for its Prelude venture off the northwest coast.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Macdonald-Smith in Sydney at [email protected]

Last Updated: April 30, 2008 05:48 EDT

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