INDONESIA: Jakarta launches appeal in case against Newmont Mining Corp

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Indonesian prosecutors have launched the first stage of an appeal after Newmont Mining Corp's Indonesian unit was cleared in a high-profile pollution case two weeks ago, a court official said yesterday.

On April 24, an Indonesian court cleared the unit and its American president of dumping toxic waste into a bay near a gold mine in North Sulawesi and making people sick.

"Prosecutors have registered their appeal today. They have two weeks to file the reasons why they want an appeal," Ridwan Damanik, deputy chief of Manado district court, told Reuters.

Damanik, who was the chief judge in the trial, said prosecutors had to provide reasons for the appeal before the court could process it.

Damanik had said at the end of the 20-month trial that the pollution charges against Newmont Minahasa Raya and its president, Richard Ness, could not be proven.

The case has been seen 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.

The verdict was viewed as a defeat for activists who wanted to send a message that Indonesia is serious about enforcing laws to protect a rapidly degrading environment.

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

Newmont had said in March it might reconsider its investments in Indonesia if its executive was found guilty.

Newmont's operations in Indonesia account for six percent of its worldwide gold sales and 8.5% of its reserves, according to the company's Web site.

Indonesia's mining sector has been struggling to attract new foreign money as legal uncertainties, rampant graft and red-tape steered foreign investors away from the country.

AMP Section Name:Environment
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