Newmont on trial for polluting water

An American heading the Indonesian branch of the world's largest gold producer is put on trial on charges of polluting a bay.

    A guilty verdict can scare off investors from Indonesia

    The Indonesian government says Newmont Mining Corp dumped mercury and arsenic-laced pollutants into the Buyat Bay on Sulawesi island and is holding Richard Ness, a native of Ada, Minnesota, responsible.

    If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $68,000. 

    Ness, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, smiled to reporters as he entered the courthouse in the North Sulawesi capital of Manado, 2000km northeast of Jakarta on Friday.

    Villagers blame skin diseases and other illness on pollutants dumped in the bay.

    Newmont says any health problems they face are due to poor hygiene and diet, as well as mercury pollution from the thousands of illegal miners that work in the hillsides along the bay.

    Conflicting test results add to Newmont's worries.

    The World Health Organization and an initial Environment Ministry report found the Buyat Bay to be unpolluted, and a government study released in May found that traces of heavy metals in villagers living close to the mine were within normal levels.

    But the prosecution will present a police report showing the levels of mercury and arsenic are well beyond national standards.

    Mining analysts say a guilty verdict could scare off foreign investors already anxious over the country's legal uncertainties, rising costs and excessive red tape.

    Environmentalists say the trial offers the government, which for decades coddled investors, an opportunity to hold a foreign firm accountable.

    SOURCE: AFP


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    From Qatar to Alaska, a personal journey exploring what it means to belong when your culture is endangered.