Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Agreement on Kimberley Coast LNG Project Edges Closer

Mathew Murphy
April 10, 2009

A DEAL believed to have been struck between key stakeholders may bring a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas hub for the West Australian coast a step closer to reality.

In a speech to the Melbourne Mining Club, federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson flagged that an announcement regarding a deal in principle between Woodside, the Western Australian Government and the Kimberley Land Council was imminent.

A March 31 deadline, set by WA Premier Colin Barnett, passed without resolution with concerns at the time still surrounding key aspects of the benefits package to the traditional owners, including the timing of those benefits over a 30-year period.

A subcommittee of the Kimberley Land Council is due to report back to the wider group next Wednesday with many hoping the traditional owners will sign off on the deal the same day.

Mr Ferguson told the Melbourne Mining Club: "This is a project of vital importance for the future economic and social empowerment of indigenous communities in the Kimberley. Equally it is a project of national and state significance that would generate jobs, exports, revenue and economic growth for the benefit of all Australians."

Under the proposal, LNG from the Browse Basin would be processed at James Prince Point, 60 kilometres north of Broome. The basin contains more than a third of Australia's known offshore gas reserves. But environmentalists and some local Aborigines say the gas plant should not be built on the fragile Kimberley coastline.

Mr Barnett has pushed hard to strike a deal with the traditional owners after Japanese gas producer Inpex abandoned its $15 billion bid in September to build a gas plant amid uncertainty over a site. He has staked his political leadership on the Woodside deal, declaring he would not allow another big development to fall over "on his watch".

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