MAC: Mines and Communities

Executives of US-based miner Newmont to be freed in Indonesia: lawyer

Published by MAC on 2004-10-23

Executives of US-based miner Newmont to be freed in Indonesia: lawyer

23rd October 2004

Agence France Presse

Jakarata(AFP) - Five executives of US-based mining firm Newmont who have been detained for a month as suspects in a pollution case will be released from custody, their lawyer said.

"It's hoped that in another hour they will be free. All that remains is the paperwork," Palmer Situmorang told Elshinta radio.

They would however be required to stay in Jakarta until the investigation is completed, he said.

The men -- three Indonesians, an Australian and an American -- are officials with Newmont Minahasa Raya, an Indonesian unit of Newmont Mining, the world's largest gold producer.

The decision to free them came after their lawyers met with Brigadier General Suharto, chief of specific crimes for the Indonesian national police, the lawyer said.

They have been detained since last month after accusations that Newmont had severely polluted Buyat Bay near its mine in North Sulwawesi province.

Residents of the area reported to police in August that the mine had caused problems including Minamata disease -- a neurological disorder named after a Japanese bay where there was an outbreak in the 1950s.

A human rights group dealing in health affairs has said 30 people died after suffering symptoms similar to those of Minamata disease since the mine began production in 1996.

Newmont denies there is pollution in the bay.

A company lawyer said Friday a new test by an Australian-based research organisation found a normal concentration of metals in Buyat Bay.

An earlier study by the World Health Organisation and Japan's Institute for Minamata Disease also vindicated Newmont, the company said.

Company president Richard Ness is also a suspect in the case but has not been detained because of poor health.

Prosecutors in North Sulawesi province said Friday police files implicating the six were deficient and had been handed back for completion.

The men face a maximum of six years in prison or a 500 million rupiah (55 thousand dollar) fine if found guilty.

The US embassy has criticised their detention as unnecessary because the company has been cooperating in the investigation. It has warned the detentions could scare badly needed investors from Indonesia.



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