Manado, North Sulawesi (ANTARA News) - The Manado district court on Tuesday declared US-based gold-mining company PT Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR) and its president director, Richard B Ness, innocent of the charge they had polluted and damaged the environment in Buyat Bay in South Minahasa district, North Sulawesi.
The verdict, read out by judge Ridwan Damamik, was greeted with jubilation by the audience which mostly consisted of NMR employees and members of Ness`s family, including his two sons, Eric and Brian, and his wife.
"I am proud of my father," Eric said while Ness`s wife said she was thankful to God for her husband`s acquittal. Ness himself also smiled happily on hearing the court`s decision.
Meanwhile, public prosecutors Purwanta and Mutmaina Umaji said they would appeal the court`s verdict to acquit PT Newmont and its president director of the charges with a higher court.
Outside the courthouse, hundreds of demonstrators shouted protests against the court`s decision. They said the judges were not fair and had sided with "those in power."
In its arguments on the verdict, the panel of judges chaired by Ridwan Damanik said the data submitted by the public prosecutors to support their charges differed from those presented by a number of national and international research centers.
The prosecutors` data were based on the results of forensic laboratory tests conducted by the Indonesian police whereas according to examinations done by the research centers, the metal concentrations in the waters of Buyat Bay and in the bodies of alleged pollution victims were still below the dangerous level as stipulated by the office of the State Ministry of the Environment.
Besides, the results of a tailing concentration test also indicated that the tailing concentration found in the waters of Buyat Bay was not poisonous. Tailings disposed into the sea to a depth of 80 meters had not created any problem and were not carried away by sea currents so that they did not pollute the sea water.
On the accusation that PT Newmont did not possess any license for tailing disposal, the judges said PT NMR had conducted an environmental impact analysis (AMDAL) as required by regulations before it began operating in the area.
"Therefore, it is not true that PT NMR had disposed its tailings into the sea without a license," Ridwan Damanik said when reading the panel of judges` verdict. (*)