Indonesia in Tough Spot in Newmont Mining Case, Says VP
JAKARTA − Critics are applying a double standard to Indonesia over its pursuit of an environmental case involving the world's largest gold miner, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said on Thursday.
The U.S. embassy in Jakarta as well as various business groups have criticised Indonesia's handling of pollution accusations against a unit of Denver-based Newmont Mining Corp.
Five Newmont executives -- one American, an Australian and three Indonesians -- were detained for weeks over the matter and their movements are still restricted while prosecutors decide whether to formally charge them.
The U.S. embassy had called the detentions inappropriate, saying Newmont was already cooperating fully with the investigation, and suggested the action could harm the investment climate in Indonesia.
Asked if he thought the detentions were bad for Indonesia's image, Kalla said: "I think it is wrong for people to protest. Foreigners want us to enforce the law. When the government enforces the law, they say it's wrong. So, which one is right?"
"In the United States and other places, people who violate environmental laws will go to jail. So, it's a double standard," the former businessman said.
Environmental groups and some villagers living near Buyat Bay on Indonesia's Sulawesi island say waste dumped in the bay by Newmont's Minahasa Raya mine contained pollutants that were contaminating the food chain and causing health problems.
Newmont has vigorously denied such charges and said it consistently followed Indonesian government rules. A series of reports on pollution levels in the bay by company, government, and independent teams have produced varying results that have been subject to different interpretations.
Industry groups have agreed with the U.S. embassy that the handling of the case could be an impediment to much-needed foreign investment. Environmental organisations say Indonesia has often been lenient about polluters in the past and the case should be vigorously pursued.
"Indonesia is in a tough position," said Kalla.