Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Newmont won pollution trial

PT Newmont Minahasa Raya, a subsidiary of US-based mining giant Newmont Corporation, won the legal battle against Indonesian government over the charges that it polluted a bay near its mine in North Sulawesi.
This morning judges at South Jakarta Lower Court read the verdict saying the court has no legal rights to conduct the trial.
Judges panel led by Soedarto said Article 21 of the Working Contract between Indonesia government and PT Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR) stipulated that any disputes should be settled in an arbitrary body. The ministry of environment, who filed the case, according to judges should honor the contract.
It is not clear whether Indonesian prosecutors would appeal to higher court. But NMR president Richard Bruce, as quoted by welcome the decision. "The verdict is good for investment climate here. The ministry of environment should honor the working contract," he said.
Environmental groups criticized the verdict saying the pollution case should not be ruled out by a business contract. The groups defended government's lawsuit and believes the arbitrary would reject to handle the case.
"This is not a contract dispute. This is a lawsuit by government on pollution that is against the law," said one NGO leader.
The case against Newmont - which hinges on claims that tailings from the Minahasa Raya mine caused chronic illness among villagers living in the area, has become a litmus test for Indonesia's troubled investment climate.
Key evidence in the case is in dispute - independent experts from groups including the World Health Organisation argue there is little evidence of pollution in the bay into which Newmont dumped tailings until August. But police claim their tests show that the bay's waters contain unhealthy levels of mercury and arsenic.
Newmont largest mining operation in Indonesia is through PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara.




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