From: Associated Press
Published March 11, 2005 12:00 AM

Indonesian Government Sues Newmont Mining over Pollution of Bay off Sulawesi Island

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian authorities said Thursday they have sued a subsidiary of Denver-based Newmont Mining Corp., seeking $133.6 million in compensation from the company for allegedly polluting a bay off Sulawesi island.


The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by the Ministry of Environment in the South Jakarta District Court, where the offices of PT Newmont Minahasa Raya are located, said Bambang Widjojanto, a government attorney.


The lawsuit claims the company and its president director Robert Hubert Ness created pollution that damaged the environment and caused skin diseases to people living around Buyat Bay in northern Sulawesi province.


"It is clear that Newmont Minahasa Raya has dumped its waste and heavy metal into the air and waters around its operation site," Widjojanto said. "Therefore the state ministry of environment demands that the company and its director pay compensations of $117.6 million for material losses and $16 million for other damages."


A court clerk confirmed the suit had been filed and said a panel of judges would be assigned to the case within the next three weeks.


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Luhut Pangaribuan, an attorney for PT Newmont Minahasa Raya, described the lawsuit as "strange and shocking."


"Laboratory results have clearly shown that there was no pollution in the bay at all," Pangaribuan said.


Last year, tests on the bay's water produced conflicting results.


The World Health Organization and an initial Environment Ministry report found the water unpolluted. But a subsequent ministry study found arsenic levels in the seabed were 100 times higher at the waste-dumping site than in other parts of the bay.


Newmont stopped mining two years ago at the Sulawesi site, 1,300 miles northeast of the capital, Jakarta, after extracting all the gold it could, but kept processing ore there until Aug. 31, 2004, when the mine was permanently shut.


Newmont Mining shares fell 50 cents, or 1.1 percent, to close at $45.74 in Thursday trading on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. The stock has been trading at a 52-week range of $34.70 to $49.98.


Source: Associated Press


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