Whitehaven Coal Ltd. (WHC), developing the A$766 million ($803 million) Maules Creek mine, was targeted by a hoax e-mail from a green group campaigning against the project that sent its shares down as much as 8.8 percent.
Frontline Action on Coal, an environmental group that opposes the mine in Australia’s New South Wales state, sent a fake press release that Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. (ANZ) had terminated a A$1.2 billion loan to Whitehaven on environmental grounds, Jonathan Moylan, a spokesman for the group, said by phone. Whitehaven recovered to trade 0.3 percent lower at A$3.51 at 2:03 p.m. in Sydney after it and ANZ revealed the e-mail was a hoax.
The company’s shares plunged after the Australian Financial Review and the Australian Associated Press reported the fake statement as news. The hoax release, which mirrored the format of ANZ’s official statements, listed a phone number purportedly for Toby Kent, the head of corporate sustainability at ANZ. The number, identical to one on the green group’s website, was answered by a man who identified himself as Moylan when Bloomberg News phoned for comment.
Green groups have stepped up campaigns in courts and by occupying port facilities in Australia in an effort to reduce shipments from the world’s largest exporter of coal.
Whitehaven last month completed a A$1.2 billion debt facility, underwritten by ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and National Australia Bank Ltd. (NAB) The loan replaced existing facilities and the company plans to spend the funds on Maules Creek and general corporate purposes, it said in a statement.
The company in October received approval from the NSW government for Maules Creek, located in the Gunnedah Basin with first coal sales planned in 2014.
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