A case has been brought against the world’s largest gold mining company, Newmont Mining Company who is accused of polluting Buyat Bay, near Manado, due to its tailings disposal process. It is alleged that prior to the closure of the mine in 2004, millions of tons of mercury and arsenic-based pollutants were dumped in the bay, causing rapid decline in fish stocks and affecting the health of residents in nearby villages. While Newmont denies the charges, claiming that the waste they dumped in the bay remained at the bottom of the sea and did not enter the ecosystem, villagers claim they suffered skin diseases and other illnesses as a result of coming into contact with the pollutants.

The case has developed interest world-wide as if the Indonesian court makes a finding against the multi-national this will be the first time the Indonesian government has punished such an entity for polluting the environment. Newmont’s boss, whose duty it was to supervise, control and order employees of the company to comply with the company’s regulations and Indonesian law, may face imprisonment, while the company could face a hefty fine. However, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) study, the Bay waters were found to be unpolluted and the company blame poor hygiene, diet and environmentally damaging practices by other gold miners in the area for the ill-health of residents of nearby villages. While environmental organisations have been lobbying hard against the company for years, the outcome in this case will come down to the decision of five judges in the Indonesian court. Newmont has already sought to have the case dismissed, claiming that the police investigation was flawed.



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