Leading Australian operator Santos has been dealt a blow today by a Federal Court decision to suspend the development drilling campaign at the US$3.6 billion (A$5.4 billion) Barossa offshore gas project following a legal challenge by an indigenous group.

Dennis Tipaklippa, Tiwi Island’s traditional owner and senior figure of the Munupi clan, took legal action in June arguing that the regulator the National Offshore Petroleum Safety & Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema) should not have approved Santos’ plans to drill at the Barossa gas field, alleging Santos had failed to consult the Munupi clan properly.