A hoax media release purportedly from ANZ, has duped some media outlets, sent Whitehaven shares into free-fall and resulted in a trading halt for the company on the Australian Stock Exchange.
The hoax email, in the tradition of the now famous 'Yes Men' Union Carbide Bhopal disaster hoax, claimed ANZ was had withdrawn the $1.2 billion loan facility from Whitehaven Coal - funds meant to develop the Maules Creek Coal Project.
The language however raised alarm bells, with the media statement spuriously quoting ANZ Group Head of Corporate Sustainability, Toby Kent, stating the bank “will not be investing in coal projects that cause significant dislocation of farmers, unacceptable damage to the environment, or social conflict.”
Whitehaven, when contacted by the Namoi Valley Independent, moved to refute the claims, however the news story made it onto Australian Associated Press’ wires and was broadcast across several websites, resulting in an immediate plunge in the Whitehaven share price.
Whitehaven contacted the Australian Stock Exchange immediately and at 12.56pm today a trading halt was issued on all Whitehaven shares.
At 1.04pm, Whitehaven issuesd a statement to the ASX confirming the announcement had been a hoax, backed up by the bank itself.
In the mean time however, the share price had dropped 10.8 per cent from a high of $3.60 per share to $3.21 at the time trade was halted. More than 4,600,000 shares have so far been traded up and down today, with the share price currently trading just below today’s high at $3.53. per share.
Front Line Action on Coal spokesman Jonathan Moylan was only too happy to claim responsibility for the email.
Although not prepared to comment on the possible legal implications of the hoax, Mr Moylan said the groups aims had been achieved with high success.
“ANZ customers have a right to know where their money is being invested and now they do,” Mr Moylan said.
Asked whether the drastic impacts on the share-price and the effects on investors were warranted, Mr Moylan said his concern was for the envirnment and farmers in the region.
“The consequences of the Maules Creek mine for farmers and for the last remaining forest and even the global climate are too drastic to ignore,” he said.
“Whitehaven Coal has cleared out people living in the area, destoroying water tables and people’s lives. That’s the real story here.”
For more on this and other local news, read tomorrow's edition of the Namoi Valley Independent.