Adani drops $600 million claim against Queensland activist and demands $17 million instead

Mining giant Adani has revealed it was seeking more than $600 million in damages from an environmental activist, an amount it has now dropped from its list. civil case against Ben Pennings

Adani claims that Pennings, as the national spokesperson for the group Galilee Blockade, is monitoring the operations of the Carmichael coal mineits suppliers and contractors.

Adani had cut $600 million from his claims statement earlier this month, leaving the damages sought in the amended document at $86,579, meaning Pennings could try to take the case out of the Queensland Supreme Court and instead at a lower – and less expensive – level of the judicial system.

That changed late Thursday, on the eve of a hearing to set a trial date, when Adani’s attorneys notified Pennings of previously unquantified damages resulting from having to conduct a second tender process after drilling contractor Downer surrendered. withdrawn.

Adani now claims that the tender to replace Downer cost more than $17 million.

Adani claims Pennings “orchestrated an ongoing campaign” against the Carmichael project, requesting confidential information about the construction process and using it to harass contractors.

It tried unsuccessfully to conduct an unannounced search of the activist’s childhood home, and his lawyers ordered a private investigator to secret photos of Pennings taking his nine-year-old daughter to primary schoolkeeps an eye on his wife, scours her Facebook page and follows her to work.

The mining company’s attorney Dominic Pyle told the court on Friday that his client dropped the “millions of dollars” claim “to save time, energy and effort”.

Adani told the Guardian the damage had been reduced to speed up the proceedings.

“We have chosen to nominate an amount of damages so that the case can go to court without undue delay to determine a larger amount that we will probably never get back,” said a spokesperson.

“Her Honor Justice Brown accepted this approach.”

Pyle acknowledged there was little evidence at this point to support the $17 million figure, but told the court the “details can be improved and will be improved” once expert evidence is introduced into the proceedings.

But Pennings senior counsel, Dan O’Gorman, predicted “serious doubts” about the figure, given Adani’s history of “damage and particulars of damage” claims.

Pennings described the past few weeks as a “rollercoaster of emotions”.

“Adani first dropped the huge damages claim it used in their second attempt to raid my childhood home, hiring investigators to follow my wife and children through the trial,” he said. “The afternoon before the hearing, I’m told that Adani wants me to pay them $17 million instead. Then I find out in court that in the end they think I cost them $600 million.”

For Pennings, his childhood home is at stake, including a dedicated space designed to accommodate the needs of his child with disabilities.

Pennings told the Guardian it was “hard to admit publicly” that the Adani case has “sent him in and out of fear and depression”, sometimes making him physically ill.

“If I tell my dear mother, she will be even more stressed,” he said.

“But a case like this affects our democracy and people deserve to know the consequences of lengthy lawsuits against a peaceful protester. Despite almost two years of fear, I am still determined to win the case on behalf of all Australians.”

A review date for the case has been set for August 1, with Brown expressing concern at the “enormous amount of time” spent on the details and calling on both parties to help her set a date for a hearing and resolve the case “one day.” to solve”. way or the other”.

“It seems that a lot of time and money has been wasted on the intermediate steps rather than just going through,” she said.

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