A GIANT hoax involving the region’s biggest coalmining company could result in legal action against the young man responsible.
Whitehaven Coal managing director Tony Haggarty yesterday condemned the actions of activist Jonathan Moylan, who, on Monday, posed as an ANZ bank employee and circulated a media release claiming the bank had pulled a $1.2 billion loan to assist the undeveloped Maules Creek Coal project.
Whitehaven’s shares took an immediate 27-cent-dive, following circulation of the release before a 10-minute trading halt was enforced shortly before 1pm.
Now, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) is looking into the matter and speaking to those responsible, including Mr Moylan.
Mr Moylan, a 24-year-old Newcastle man, is a member of the Front Line Action on Coal group that has been camping out in the Leard State Forest for nearly 160 days to protest against the proposed mine site.
Mr Haggarty said it was Whitehaven’s view that Monday’s hoax was the action of a very small extremist group.
“They’ll obviously say or do anything for publicity,” he said.
The group has held multiple protests and anti-mining meetings against the company, but the hoax is the first time they have targeted the miner at a corporate level.
Mr Haggarty said they went too far this time and he hoped the authorities would throw the book at them.
“They’ve done something illegal as well as highly irresponsible,” he said.
“People need to see them for what they are. Those who support them should think otherwise.”
Mr Moylan confirmed he had been contacted by ASIC yesterday, as well as some shareholders with legal threats.
He said he had also been contacted by residents and solicitors who had vowed to support him.
While Mr Moylan would not comment on any proposed legal action, which could involve fines and imprisonment, he said he stood to gain nothing from the hoax but the Maules Creek residents would lose a lot if the mine went ahead.
“If the development application goes against us, we’ll be here to defend,” he said.