Newmont Lodges Counter-Appeal in Mining Case

JAKARTA ~ US mining giant Newmont said on Wednesday it had lodged a counter-motion against an appeal by Indonesian prosecutors, the latest twist in a high-profile pollution case that the company won in April.

The local unit of Newmont and its president director, Richard Ness, contended in the motion that the appeal to the Supreme Court was unlawful as the original court hearing was in compliance with applicable laws.

“The appeal as submitted by the public prosecutor does not have a legal basis at all,” said Luhut M.P. Pangaribuan, a lawyer for the mining company that had been accused of dumping toxic waste in Sulawesi island’s Buyat Bay.

“The material provided by the public prosecutor appears to contain only a repetition of their arguments presented at trial. These arguments were exhaustively reviewed, tested and considered when the acquittal ruling was rendered,” he said in a statement from the company.

Ness said in the statement that the Manado District Court had spent 21 months reviewing 233 pieces of documentary evidence, heard 62 local and international witnesses and “found the charges to be totally without merit.”

“The allegations that Buyat Bay is polluted have been demonstrated to be a hoax and this appeal is an abuse of the justice system.”

Prosecutors had wanted to jail Ness for three years in a high-profile case closely watched by international business leaders and environmental groups.

Ness and the company’s Indonesian unit, PT Newmont Minahasa Raya, were also accused of damaging villagers’ health and poisoning marine life.

Newmont, the world’s largest gold miner, had always denied the charges, saying it disposed of toxins safely and levels of mercury and arsenic were within acceptable levels.

It had warned a guilty verdict would prompt it to reconsider investing in Indonesia, which is trying to lure foreign firms and overcome an international reputation for corruption and bureaucratic red tape.

Ness is also suing The New York Times for more than US$64 million over stories it published in 2004 that claimed it had polluted the bay with waste from its defunct mine.

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