Mining Firm Objects to Pollution Film

JAKARTA ~US gold-mining giant Newmont Mining Corp. has objected to a documentary nominated for Indonesia’s top film award, which it says interferes with a controversial pollution trial, state media said.

The Indonesian Film Festival (FFI) committee received a letter from Newmont’s lawyers objecting to a screening of Bye Bye Buyat at the festival’s award night on Thursday.

Newmont criticized the nomination of the film for FFI’s Citra Award 2006 as “it will interfere with legal proceedings that involve the company,” committee chairman Djonny Syafruddin was quoted as saying by the official Antara news agency.

“They also object to the plan to screen the film during FFI’s Citra award night on December 21,” he said.

But he said the “FFI never turns down a film that meets our requirements, especially if it has passed the censor board.”

Newmont’s lawyers could not be immediately reached for comment.

The film was commissioned by leading environmental groups Walhi and Jatam.

“The documentary film tells the tale of affected communities’ last day before they leave their polluted villages,” Walhi director Chalid Mohammad said.

Mohammad said he hoped the nomination would remind people of the trial, in which the US president director of local unit Newmont Minahasa Raya, Richard Ness, is charged with failing to prevent pollution of Buyat Bay in North Sulawesi.

Prosecutors have demanded a three-year jail term for Ness.

Villagers living near the bay complained that waste pumped from Newmont’s goldmine into the sea and air was responsible for neurological and skin complaints.

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.

It is the first time Newmont has faced criminal charges in any country and senior company executives have hinted that a conviction could prompt a rethink of its investments in Indonesia.

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