Vulcan Energy bosses heated up over short-seller Tim Murray’s social media campaign

Headshot of Neale Prior
Neale PriorThe West Australian
 Vulcan Energy’s MD Francis Wedin.
Camera Icon Vulcan Energy’s MD Francis Wedin. Credit: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

Lithium project promoter Vulcan Energy claims a campaign by short-seller Tim Murray included YouTube videos seriously damaging to managing director Francis Wedin and three other senior players.

Not only attacking a report that includes headlines such as “implausible” and “voodoo” to describe Vulcan’s plans to extract lithium from geothermal brine, a Federal Court action by the Vulcan team cries foul about promotional work by Mr Murray and his company J-Capital Research USA.

Documents released by the Federal Court on Tuesday afternoon reveal that the senior Vulcan players in Perth, Britain and Germany are angry over suggestions in two videos that they deliberately misled the market to make financial gains.

Vulcan chairman Gavin Rezos, chief operating officer Thorsten Weimann, co-founder Horst Kreuter and Dr Wedin also claim they were defamed by Mr Murray in interviews he conducted with CNBC and with a specialist short-sellers’ video channel zerOes.tv in late October.

In the zerOes.tv interview published around the time of the release of a highly critical report by J Capital, Mr Murray attacked the viability of its Upper Rhine Valley project. He claimed almost every project around the German-French border had suffered delays or been been blocked by community opposition.

Mr Murray also attacked the track records of Mr Weimann and Dr Kreuter — Vulcan’s key players in Germany.

The breadth of the legal row is revealed in a statement of claim that was released to The West Australian despite opposition by Vulcan and its four key officers, who are claiming high-level damages for defamation.

Vulcan tried to keep a veil of secrecy over the legal action it launched against Mr Murray and J-Capital overnight on November 7 — 11 days after the publication of the report titled Vulcan: God of Empty Promises.

Vulcan and the four senior players gained an injunction early on November 8 forcing Mr Murray to take down the October 26 report.

The West Australian won a judgment from Justice Craig Colvin on Tuesday morning for the release of the statement of claim to the media.

The statement of claim accuses Mr Murray and J-Capital of making a series of false or misleading claims about Vulcan’s project called Zero Carbon Lithium.

Mr Murray’s report claimed the flow rate from the project was likely to be 30 per cent less than what was published in a pre-feasibility report released in January. Mr Murray also attacked Vulcan’s January document using reports provided by companies acquired by Vulcan from Dr Kreuter and Mr Weimann.

In its statement of claim, Vulcan said its links to the companies providing those reports had been clearly disclosed.

It also rejected attacks by Mr Murray on the brine flow rates assumed in the report.

“Vulcan has consistently disclosed in its pre-feasibility study that it has not drilled any geothermal wells so the market is not misled as to risk,” the statement of claim said.

Rejecting claims its lithium extraction process was voodoo, Vulcan said its process had been adequately explained in numerous publications disclosed to the stock exchange and was based on “clear scientific concepts and technologies”.

And rejecting allegations by J-Capital that its lithium recovery rate was implausible, Vulcan said the pre-feasibility study included an 88.2 per cent recovery rate and recovery rates of 90 per cent were commonly reported in direct extraction operations.

The report publication injunction against Mr Murray and J-Capital remains in place until at least December 8.

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