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Court Rules Newmont Executives Detention Legal

Published by MAC on 2005-03-17

Court Rules Newmont Executives Detention Legal

March 17, 2005

By Ali Kotarumalos, Associated Press (AP)

Jakarta, Indonesia - Indonesia's Supreme Court has ruled that a police investigation into five executives of U.S. mining giant Newmont Mining Corp. over pollution allegations is legal, clearing the way for the men to face trial.

In December, the South Jakarta District Court ruled that the case against the men - an American, an Australian and three Indonesians - was illegal because police had failed to inform the environment ministry of their intention to arrest them.

On Thursday, court spokesman Hasbi Yunda told reporters that the Supreme Court had overruled the earlier verdict, which had forced authorities to shelve the case against the executives on charges stemming from the alleged pollution at a Newmont mine on Sulawesi Island.

"The Supreme Court has ruled that the detention of the five Newmont executives was legal," Yunda said. "It also ruled that police can now continue their interrogation and investigation of their cases."

Yunda did not explain the reasons for the ruling Monday by the Supreme Court, which meets behind closed doors.

Police already have completed their investigation into the executives from Newmont Minahasa Raya, the Denver-based company's local unit. They said Thursday they would now formally hand the case over to prosecutors, who are expected to charge the men soon.

The men are accused of corporate crimes in connection with the alleged pollution. If found guilty, they could face up to 15 years in jail.

"The ruling is unlawful because our law does not allow appeal over a pretrial verdict," Luhut Pangaribuan, a lawyer for Newmont, told The Associated Press.

The environment ministry announced last week it was suing the company for $133.6 million in compensation over the alleged pollution.

Jakarta's determination to press charges against Newmont has cheered green activists, who have long complained that foreign mining operations in Indonesia skirt environmental laws. But it risks spooking investors who complain that Indonesia's legal system and police are inefficient and corrupt.

Tests on the bay's water have produced conflicting results.

The World Health Organization and an initial Environment Ministry report found the water unpolluted. But a subsequent ministry study found 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, 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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