MAC: Mines and Communities

Indonesia Dismisses Investment Concerns Over Newmont Case

Published by MAC on 2004-12-08
Source: Associated Press ()

Indonesia dismisses investment concerns over Newmont case

Associated Press (AP)

December 8 2004

Jakarata - Indonesia on Wednesday dismissed concerns that plans to prosecute a subsidiary of U.S.-based Newmont Mining on pollution charges would hurt foreign investment, saying clean companies had nothing to worry about.

"I am sure that foreign investors won't be scared away," said Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar. "I and the president personally guarantee to protect companies who manage their operations well."

"We welcome the honest ones. There is no need for the crooked ones," he told reporters.

Police accuse Newmont Minahasa Raya, a subsidiary of Denver, Colorado-based Newmont Mining Corp., of dumping heavy metals into Buyat Bay on Sulawesi island, causing residents to develop skin diseases and tumors.

Prosecutors are preparing criminal charges against five company executives - including an American and an Australian - over the alleged pollution. If found guilty, they could face up to 15 years in jail.

Witoelar said prosecutors expected the trial to begin in mid-January.

The government's determination to press charges against Newmont has cheered green activists, who have long complained that foreign mining operations skirt environmental laws while digging up the country's rich natural resources.

Newmont, whose mines in at least three other countries have also been subject to pollution allegations, have denied any wrongdoing.

Tests have produced conflicting results about water quality in the bay. The World Health Organization and an initial Environment Ministry report found the water unpolluted.

But a subsequent ministry study found that arsenic levels in the seabed were 100 times higher at the waste-dumping site than in other parts of the bay.

Newmont stopped mining two years ago at the Sulawesi site, 2,000 kilometers (1,300 miles) northeast of the capital, Jakarta, after extracting all the gold it could, but kept processing ore there until Aug. 31, 2004, when the mine was permanently shut.

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