Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – An Indonesian court has judged US based Newmont Mining Corporation “not guilty” of polluting Buyat Bay, in the Sulawesi Sea, or of causing grave illness among the local population. The verdict emitted today by Manado district court concludes a 20 month trial, to the delight of foreign investors and the disappointment of environmentalists.
Had he been found guilty, Richard Ness, 57, faced a maximum 10 years in jail and a US,000 (euro44,000) fine. The Denver company – one of the world leaders in mineral extraction – was brought to trial by the local population, who maintain that the toxic waste dumped at sea by the mining giant is the root cause of epidermic illnesses and tumours.
The presiding judge however found that that evidence presented proved that waste rock dumped into the water by Newmont's now-defunctmine on Sulawesi island did not exceed government standards. As the sentence was being read , demonstrators gathered outside the court protesting that the government should protect its citizens. Activists say follow-up research should be conducted for up to 30 years to make sure they are not suffering from body arsenic-accumulation.
Newmont began operations in Sulawesi in 1996, but the Denver, Colorado-based company stopped mining in 2004 after extracting all the gold and ore it could. In Indonesia, activities managed by foreign companies particularly the US are not welcomed: often they have grave environmental repercussions and the increased foreign involvement in the exploitation of local resources is not welcomed by most.