From: Reuters
Published October 11, 2007 08:29 AM

Court rejects lawsuit over NY Times pollution story

JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Indonesian court has rejected a lawsuit filed by the president of Newmont Mining Corp.'s local unit against the New York Times and a reporter over pollution accusations made in the paper, a lawyer said on Thursday.

The civil lawsuit was filed in the Central Jakarta court against the New York Times Co and its reporter Jane Perlez for publishing discrediting articles against Newmont Minahasa President Richard Ness between September 2004 to February 2006.

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The newspaper had run several stories highlighting comments by local villagers who claimed to have been sickened from fish caught in Buyat Bay, near a now defunct Newmont gold mine in North Sulawesi province.

The court threw out the lawsuit, which sought around $65 million in compensation, on the grounds the case was outside its jurisdiction, said Harjon Sinaga, Ness's lawyer.

"The court said that all the engaged parties are foreigners and domiciling outside the country, thus the case cannot be processed in Indonesia," said Sinaga.

Ness's lawyers are appealing the decision.

In April, an Indonesian court cleared Ness and PT Newmont Minahasa Raya of charges related to dumping of toxic waste into a bay near a gold mine in North Sulawesi after a 20-month trial closely watched by investors and environmentalists.

But at the end of May the prosecution team filed an appeal document to the Supreme Court in a bid to overturn the ruling. PT Newmont Minahasa Raya and Ness have asked the Supreme Court to reject that appeal.

The pollution trial received widespread attention as a key test of attitudes towards foreign firms and environmental protection in the world's fourth most populous nation.

Indonesia's Environment Ministry said in 2004 that arsenic and mercury content in waste dumped by Newmont had contaminated sediment and entered the food chain.

But other tests failed to find abnormal pollution levels.

Newmont and Ness denied the charges, pointing to the studies that have found no evidence of pollution.

Last year Denver-based Newmont settled a civil case without admitting wrongdoing and agreed to pay $30 million to an environmental foundation in North Sulawesi.

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