MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Newmont executive, company found not guilty in pollution trial

Published by MAC on 2007-04-24

Newmont executive, company found not guilty in pollution trial

The Jakarta Post

24th April 2007

MANADO (AP): An Indonesian court found a U.S. executive and his company, Newmont Mining Co., not guilty Tuesday of polluting a bay and sickening villagers, a verdict likely to cheer foreigninvestors and anger environmentalists.

Richard Ness, 57, faced a maximum 10 years in jail and a US$60,000 (euro44,000) fine.

Presiding judge Ridwan Damanik told the Manado District Court that evidence presented during the 20-month criminal trial proved that waste rock dumped into the water by Newmont's now-defunctmine on Sulawesi island did not exceed government standards.

"There also is not enough evidence that people suffered from health problems," the judge said.

Meanwhile, demonstrators gathered outside the court Tuesday said the government should protect its citizens. Crowds swelled from just 60 in the morning to 1,000 several hours later, some chanting and singing.

"We want Newmont and its director to take responsibility for what they've done," said protest organizer, Didi Koleangan, referring to allegations villagers living near the exploration site have complained of skin disease, lumps, breathingdifficulties and dizziness.

Though evidence presented to the Manado District Court was limited to a few villagers complaining of itchiness, some activists say follow-up research should be conducted for up to 30 years to make sure they are not suffering from body arsenicaccumulation. Newmont began operations in Sulawesi in 1996, but the Denver, Colorado-based company stopped mining in 2004 after extracting all the gold and ore it could.

Last year, Newmont reached a US$30 million out-of-court settlement with the government to defuse a separate civil suit over alleged toxic pollution in the bay, and could be fined another US$100,000 (euro73,500) if the company is judged guiltyon criminal charges Tuesday. (**)

 

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