Australia's Santos gets indigenous tribunal nod for Narrabri gas project

Dec 20 (Reuters) - Australia's National Native Tribunal has permitted Santos Ltd (STO.AX) to proceed with its A$3.6 billion ($2.41 billion) Narrabri project, with the condition that additional cultural heritage research is done prior to the project's next stage.

Narrabri coal seam gas project is in New South Wales (NSW), Australia's most populous state, which depends on gas from neighbouring states for all of its supply.

The controversial project is expected to help offset a potential gas supply shortfall in NSW around mid-decade.

The Tribunal, which is a mediating body for the rights of Aboriginal people, said it realised that the benefits of the project to the Narrabri region, NSW and Australia outweighed the Gomeroi traditional owners' argument that it would damage their culture, land and waters and contribute to climate change.

Lease grants to gas producer Santos "would provide a public benefit, significantly outweighing the Gomeroi applicant's concerns, particularly having regard to the limited and imprecise evidence provided in connection with such concerns", the Tribunal said.

The state government earlier this month declared a proposed pipeline that will connect the Narrabri project to another gas pipeline as "critical infrastructure" to help fast-track its development.

($1 = 1.4934 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru and Sonali Paul in Melbourne; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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