MAC: Mines and Communities

Newmont Indonesia Boss Rejects Pollution Charges

Published by MAC on 2007-01-12

Newmont Indonesia Boss Rejects Pollution Charges

by PlanetArk Indonesia

12th January 2007

MANADO, Indonesia - The president director of the Indonesian unit of Newmont Mining Corp. told a court in a high-profile pollution trial on Thursday that the US mining firm did not contaminate a local bay.

PT Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR), which once operated in Indonesia's North Sulawesi province, and its president director Richard Ness face charges over allegations the miner dumped toxic substances into a bay near its now defunct gold mine, making villagers sick.

"Legal facts show that I as the president director of NMR had done proper action to conserve the environment and processed industrial waste with the newest detoxification technology to avoid environmental damage and pollution in Buyat bay," Ness told the court.

"NMR had obtained all the necessary permits for pre-operational, exploration, exploitation, production and mine-closure. I had reported all activities every quarter and mining inspectors checked it every six months," Ness, who presented 1,000 pages of legal argument, added.

Ness's lawyers, Olha Kaloh and Palmer Situmorang, took turns to read from the document for a total of 13 hours.

Ridwan Damanik, the head of Manado's court panel of judges in North Sulawesi province, said Ness would appear again on Jan. 23 to deliver his individual legal argument.

At Thursday's hearing, Ness appeared in the court to deliver legal argument as the president director of NMR.

In November the prosecutor asked for a three-year jail term for Ness for allegedly failing to stop NMR from polluting the environment and demanded he pay 500 million rupiah (US$54,880) or serve an additional six months in prison.

The prosecutor also demanded the company be fined 1 billion rupiah.

Under Indonesian law, a prosecution sentencing demand serves as a strong recommendation for the court. But judges have the right to ignore the advice when considering their verdict.

Damanik of the Manado's court panel of judges said the judges would deliver their verdict on the case in February at the very latest.

The pollution trial against Newmont began in August 2005.

The company had denied any wrongdoing and said the government had approved its water disposal process.

Newmont opened the North Sulawesi gold mine in 1996 and closed the site after the last ore was processed in August 2004.

The company also operates Asia's second-largest copper mine, Batu Hijau, on eastern Sumbawa island, which produced 718 million pounds of copper and 719,000 ounces of gold last year.

(US$1=9110 Rupiah)



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