From: Reuters
Published October 1, 2004 12:00 AM

Newmont Seeks Release of Detained Staff in Indonesia

JAKARTA — Lawyers for the Indonesian unit of U.S. firm Newmont Mining Corp. formally requested on Thursday the release from detention of five gold mine executives being questioned by police over pollution allegations.

The employees of PT Newmont Minahasa Raya, including an Australian and an American, were detained last week.

"We have officially submitted the request letter (to police) for five of our clients to be released," Lutfi Yazid, one of Newmont's lawyers working on the case, said in a statement.

The request was made with the assurance that the detainees would not attempt to flee, he said.

The world's largest gold miner's Minahasa site, 2,150 km (1,340 miles) northeast of Jakarta, was closed in August due to depleted reserves and the company had been carrying out reclamation work.

The accusations of dumping toxic waste into a North Sulawesi bay and making villagers sick relate to when the mine was operational.

Those detained include U.S. citizen Bill Long, the Minahasa site manager, and Australian Phil Turner, manager for production and maintenance at the now closed Minahasa gold mine. The other three are Indonesians. None of the five have been charged.

It is legal in Indonesia to hold suspects or those with possible information on a case for days or weeks before they must be formally charged or released.

Denver, Colorado–based Newmont has strenuously denied the accusations and said the detentions were unnecessary because its officials were giving police their full cooperation.

Police have said the men needed to be detained for effective questioning, and there was enough preliminary evidence to justify holding them.

The United States has stepped up pressure on Jakarta over the case, with Ambassador Ralph Boyce calling on President Megawati Sukarnoputri to express concern over the detentions.

The case has alarmed foreign miners over the growing difficulty of doing business in Indonesia's outlying regions. Investment in the sector has slumped over vague regulations, illegal mining, and tough environmental rules.

Source: Reuters

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