Inpex in Pact on Ichthys LNG Project with Local Tribe

TOKYO Jul 06, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

Inpex Holdings Inc. (1605.TO) said Friday it has reached a preliminary agreement on the development of its flagship offshore Ichthys liquefied natural gas project in Australia with a local aboriginal tribe.

The Japanese energy company signed the agreement earlier this week on development of the Maret Islands off Australia's northwestern coast, over which the Uunguu tribe has rights based on Australia's Native Title Law. Under the law, aboriginal tribes can claim traditional rights over the land.

The preliminary agreement includes conditions that promise the Uunguu job creation, protection of their traditional culture and contribution to their community, said Kazuya Honda, manager of Inpex's public relations group.

Inpex plans to build facilities such as a liquefaction plant and tanks on the islands. The company is still in talks with the Uunguu over details of the agreement, Honda said.

The Kyodo News Agency reported Thursday construction plans for the Maret Islands had sparked angry protests from the Uunguu, who claimed their traditional land was being threatened.

But the two sides came together this week, when 50 Aboriginal owners and seven senior Inpex executives flew to the islands for a ceremonial meeting for the agreement, said Kyodo.

Honda said this was a part of its normal process to get approvals for the LNG project from all parties, such as the federal and local governments and local communities, and there had been no change in the development schedule.

Inpex plans to start construction in the fourth quarter of 2008, and start production in 2012. The facility will have a capacity to produce 7.6 million metric tons a year of LNG.

Inpex has a 76% stake in the project as the operator, while the other 24% is owned by French oil major Total S.A. (TOT).

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