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Govt puts Newmont boss on trial JAKARTA - Newmont Mining, the world's biggest goldminer, will stand trial in Indonesia on charges of polluting the sea with mine waste after a panel of judges rejected the company's efforts to have the case dismissed.

"The trial is to continue," presiding judge Ridwan Damanik said in court yesterday in Manado, capital of North Sulawesi province. Lawyers for Denver-based Newmont had argued the charges against the company and its local head, 56-year-old Richard Ness, had no basis in Indonesian law. Mr Ness, who denies the charges, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited London and New York this month to try to revive investment in South-East Asia's largest economy. Legal squabbles and changing laws have stifled funding for the country, which has some of the world's largest deposits of copper, gold and tin, and depends on mining for 10per cent of its economic output.

"Indonesia has always been a country with potential," said Paul Louis Coutrier, a former executive director of the Indonesian Mining Association, before the decision. "The main reason for low investment is because potential investors need legal certainty. It is up to the government to provide that. "It is the responsibility of the government to produce the rules of the game, and the Newmont case is a good example of the multi-dimensional problems, whether legal, economic or socio-economic conditions, that Indonesia faces," said Mr Coutrier, who is now chairman of the Indonesian Society for Environmental Professionals.

The next hearing was set for October 7. The dispute centres on interpretations of pollution tests. Villagers living near the mine complained to police in July 2004 of health problems after eating fish from nearby Buyat Bay. The government claims waste from the company's exhausted mine on Sulawesi polluted the sea. Newmont denies wrongdoing, saying its waste-disposal processes were in line with legal limits.

Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said in November that waste from Newmont's unit, Newmont Minahasa Raya in Sulawesi, caused arsenic levels on a seabed to rise to 10 times the levels allowed in the US. Newmont's lawyers said on August 19 the company's contract of work allowed time for complaints to be filed by the government so the company could address any pollution issues. Mr Ness told the judges that until the court case, Newmont had not been notified it had committed any act of pollution as alleged in the charges.

"The charges have no legal basis and they are not properly presented," Luhut Pangaribuan said. "If the charges are invalid, then there should be no case against our client. There is no criminal act in this case. There is no pollution there." The prosecution rejected Newmont's argument the charges had no basis and should be dropped, state prosecutor Reinhard Tololiu said on September 6.

"There was a criminal act," he said. Newmont "dumped tailings into Buyat Bay without a proper permit, and the tailings exceeded the standard quality permitted" by the legislation, he said. Newmont closed the Sulawesi mine last year after the deposit was worked out.



Posted in General @ 21 September 2005 07:09 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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