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Last Updated: Friday, 10 November 2006, 21:28 GMT
Jakarta seeks mine chief jailing
Richard Ness arrives in court on 10 November 2006
Richard Ness maintains he is innocent of the charges
Indonesian prosecutors have recommended a three-year sentence for an executive of US mining giant Newmont over alleged pollution in northern Sulawesi.

The company, the world's largest gold miner, is accused of dumping toxic substances near its now defunct mine, causing local residents to fall sick.

Newmont and the head of its local unit Richard Ness deny wrongdoing. The trial has been adjourned until December.

Both environmentalists and foreign investors are following the case.

As well as seeking a three-year jail term for Mr Ness, prosecutors also urged the judges in the northern Sulawesi court to fine both him and the firm $165,000.

Mr Ness told reporters after the hearing: "Anything short of total innocence is excessive. There is no pollution and there has been no crime".

Conflicting test results

Newmont Mining's Indonesian arm, Newmont Minahasa Raya, and Mr Ness - the local firm's president director - are accused of knowingly dumping waste at Buyat Bay, some 2,000km (1,300 miles) north-east of Jakarta.

The Indonesian authorities claim local residents suffered serious skin diseases and neurological disorders after being exposed to abnormally high levels of toxic metals including mercury and arsenic.

Map illustrating Buyat Bay
The firm, which began operations in the area in 1996, said it had fully complied with environmental regulations relating to waste removal from the mine, which closed in 2004.

It pointed to independent research - including a report commissioned by the World Health Organisation - that argued no environmental damage was caused and that traces of heavy metal deposits found on villagers were within acceptable levels.

Judges, which are free to ignore prosecutors' advice, will give their verdict when the 15-month trial resumes next month.

It is rare for the Indonesian government to take a foreign company to court, and the move has been praised by environmental campaigners.

But some business groups fear it could deter future foreign investment in the country.

Indonesian pollution trial opens
05 Aug 05 |  Business
Mine giant settles pollution case
16 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Newmont detentions 'not legal'
23 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Jakarta to try US mining workers
08 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia arrests over US mine
24 Sep 04 |  Asia-Pacific

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