Jail Sought for Newmont Boss

JAKARTA ~ Prosecutors have requested a three-year jail sentence for the president director of the local unit of US mining giant Newmont in a controversial pollution trial, an official said.

Prosecutors told the Manado District Court in North Sulawesi province that Newmont Minahasa Raya had polluted Buyat Bay and its president director, US citizen Richard Ness, had taken no steps to prevent it, a court official who identified himself as Hari said on Saturday.

The prosecution also recommended to judges Newmont be fined Rp1 billion (US$109,770) and Ness pay Rp500 million or serve an additional six months in jail, Hari said.

“The trial will continue on December 5, during which the defense will deliver their arguments,” said Hari.

Under Indonesian law, judges are not obligated to adhere to the recommendations of the prosecution, which could have called for the maximum sentence of 10 years.

Villagers living near Buyat Bay complained that waste pumped into the sea and air was responsible for neurological and skin complaints.

Lawyers for Ness, 55, and the company have accused police of failing to question witnesses proposed by the defendant.

They also argued that there was no law in Indonesia making a company president automatically responsible for corporate acts.

Newmont, the world’s biggest gold producer, has consistently denied the charges, saying it disposed of toxins safely and that levels of mercury and arsenic found around the mine were well within acceptable levels.

A World Health Organisation-backed report found no evidence of pollution but government tests showed high levels of toxins.

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