MAC: Mines and Communities

Indonesia Newmont Boss Says No Complaints On Mining

Published by MAC on 2007-01-23

Indonesia Newmont Boss Says No Complaints On Mining

Source: Reuters, Manado, Indonesia

23rd January 2007

The head of the Indonesian unit of Newmont Mining Corp. <NEM.N> told a court on Tuesday that authorities had never told the firm its mining activities might be breaking environmental or mining laws.

PT Newmont Minahasa Raya, which operated a gold mine in North Sulawesi province, and its president director Richard Ness face charges over allegations the miner dumped toxic substances into a bay close to its now defunct gold mine and made villagers sick. Ness told North Sulawesi's Manado court that the company had received permits from the energy and mines ministry for all activities and was regularly monitored.

As president director, Ness told the court he had complied with all applicable mining and environmental laws. His legal argument was read by one of his lawyers in Indonesian. "Throughout the life of the mine, PT NMR has never once received any complaints from related ministries, underscoring the company's compliance to all applicable regulations," he added.

The court is due to hear more of the Newmont chief's 306 pages of legal argument on Wednesday. The prosecutor has called for a three-year jail term for Ness over allegations he failed to stop the firm from polluting the environment and also demanded he pay 500 million rupiah ($55,020) or serve an additional six months in prison.

The prosecutor also demanded the company be fined 1 billion rupiah. Environmentalists see the case as a test of whether Indonesia is serious about tackling pollution, while some business groups say the charges are unjustified and the action will scare off foreign investors.

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.

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 in 2005.

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