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Call for Sydney University to dump Whitehaven after share buying halted

Greenpeace is calling on the University of Sydney to dump its shares in coal miner Whitehaven after the institution decided to halt further stock purchases while an investment review is underway.

The activist group is claiming credit for the suspension of the university's share buying in the company after a divestment campaign triggered more than 16,500 emails to be sent to Michael Spence, the university's vice chancellor.

"Sydney University needs to live up to the commitments it has already made," Nikola Casule, a Greenpeace campaigner, said. These include ethical investment policies approved by the university at the end of 2013 and environmental best-practice standards.

Greenpeace has targeted Whitehaven because the company is developing Australia's biggest new coal project, an open-cut mine near Maules Creek in northern NSW.

The mine will destroy endangered box-gum forest, with related off-set conservation efforts yet to be fully approved by the government. The project will also release as much as 30 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually when production ramps up, Greenpeace said.

Whitehaven "is really at the frontline of the fight against global warming in this country", Mr Casule said.


The university said in a brief statement on Monday that it was "consulting with its advisers and stakeholders to review its investment policies".

"The university has issued an instruction to make no further purchases in Whitehaven Coal while the review is underway," the statement said.

Fairfax Media sought confirmation that the university's holdings of Whitehaven shares amounted to about $1 million, or roughly 0.1 per cent of its portfolio worth around $1 billion.

Whitehaven shares ended the day down 0.5 cents to $1.96, and are close to where they were at the start of 2014.