Adani has launched landmark civil damages action against a serial protester and one of its Carmichael coalmine’s most outspoken opponents.
Adani has launched landmark civil damages action against a serial protester and one of its Carmichael coalmine’s most outspoken opponents.

Adani takes high-profile activist to court

Mining company Adani has launched landmark civil damages action against a serial protester and one of the mine's most outspoken opponents, who it claims has orchestrated a sustained campaign of harassment and intimidation against the company, costing millions of dollars.

Galilee Basin miner Adani and its Carmichael Rail Network have lodged Supreme Court action against former Greens lord mayoral candidate Benjamin Pennings, seeking damages for breach of confidence, intimidation and conspiracy.

The company is also seeking an injunction to stop Mr Pennings, a prolific activist and protester, from promoting "Dob in Adani" and "Infiltration" campaigns and from inducing or attempting to induce Adani employees and affiliates from disclosing the company's confidential information.

According to the statement of claim, Adani alleges Mr Pennings as a spokesman for the Galilee Blockade group, had been involved in ongoing action to disrupt the business over a number of years.

It claims Mr Pennings helped orchestrate an "infiltration campaign" whereby people were encouraged to apply for jobs with the company and then leak confidential information back to the mine's opponents.

It also claims he was involved in the "Dob in Adani" campaign in which contractors and affiliates with the mine were targeted by activists, causing a number of companies including Greyhound Australia to cease relationships with the coal mine and its rail line.

Brisbane-based Mr Pennings is a key spokesman and organiser for the activist group Galilee Blockade and is heavily involved in campaigning with the Stop Adani movement.

He previously worked for Greenpeace and also ran for the Greens as a candidate for lord mayor of Brisbane in 2016.

Mr Pennings has more than 12,000 followers on his public Facebook page where he regularly posts about his opposition to Adani and fossil fuels and shares posts from the Galilee Blockade page.

Anti-Adani activist Ben Pennings
Anti-Adani activist Ben Pennings

According to the claim, the ongoing action spearheaded by Mr Pennings has meant that most contracts entered into by the mine since January 2017 have contained provisions which require the business to compensate contractors for losses or disruption caused by protest activity arising from their involvement with the mine.

"Direct action against Adani Mining causes it losses insofar as its construction works are disrupted," the claim states.

"As at the date of this pleading, there have been over 25 such activist incidents whereby activists have: attached themselves to heavy machinery, perimeter fences and cattle grids, damaged heavy machinery, trespassed on land owned or leased by Adani Mining, removed surveying pegs (and) blockaded access to worksites, each of which caused disruption to Adani Mining's construction work.

"The Mine and Rail Network is a multi-billion dollar project and, direct action to targeted contractors will reduce the contractors prepared to negotiate with Adani Mining resulting in a less competitive market and higher costs being incurred by Adani Mining to account for those risks, resulting in many millions of dollars in increased costs."

In its claim, Adani has also sought for Mr Pennings to be forced to deliver confidential information back to the company to be destroyed and for him to detail his use of that information.



Adani protesters outside State Parliament
Adani protesters outside State Parliament

Adani confirmed in a statement it had launched the civil proceedings against Mr Pennings "to protect our rights, as well as those of our employees and contractors, to carry out legal and legitimate business activities free from intimidation and harassment".

"This action has not been taken lightly, but is needed to ensure our business can continue to deliver jobs and opportunities to regional Queensland communities at a time when they were needed most," a spokesman for the company said.


Originally published as Adani takes high-profile activist to court