A NSW environmentalist charged with issuing a hoax press release that allegedly wiped hundreds of millions of dollars off the value of a mining company has pleaded not guilty.
Jonathan Moylan, 25, appeared in the Supreme Court in Sydney on Friday where he pleaded not guilty to a charge of disseminating false material likely to induce people in Australia to dispose of Whitehaven shares.
Last January, the Newcastle-based activist allegedly sent a press release to media outlets claiming ANZ Bank had withdrawn a $1.2 billion loan from Whitehaven’s Maules Creek open cut coal mine on ethical grounds.
The media release bore the ANZ Bank logo, and the hoax allegedly temporarily wiped $314 million from the miner’s share price.
Moylan was initially expected to face the District Court, but prosecutors successfully applied to have him tried in the Supreme Court.
He will stand trial on June 30.
It is expected to last three weeks.
Moylan is supported by environmentalist groups who have accused Whitehaven of planning to destroy 1360 hectares of koala habitat and forcing farmers off their land through soil damage from its flagship Maules Creek project in north-western NSW.
Local farmer Rick Laird, who says his property was threatened by Whitehaven’s proposed mine, travelled to Sydney to support Moylan.
He said his family had owned property in the area for 150 years and was the namesake of the Leard State Forest, two thirds of which would be destroyed if the proposed mines went ahead.
“We’ve been fighting these mines for years, and people are finally starting to hear about it,” he said in a statement.
“If these mines go ahead, it’s the end of our livelihoods.
“We won’t be able to farm the land and we worry about the impact of coal dust on our health.”