Mining giant pays $30m to end toxic waste case

An American mining company has agreed to pay the Indonesian Government US$30m to drop a case involving allegations of the organisation knowingly dumping toxic waste from its operations.

Mining giant Newmont is accused of dumping significant quantities of mining waste containing heavy metals including mercury and arsenic near its base of operations in North Sulawesi, some 1,300 miles northeast of Jakarta.

A civil suit looking for US$133m in damages was thrown out in November 2005.

But Newmont has agreed to pay US$30m over ten years in an out-of-court settlement which will go towards funding environmental monitoring and social development in the region.

The government claims there have been an abnormal number of skin complaints and neurological disorders since the firm began working in the region in the mid 1990s and levels of heavy metal contamination are above safe limits.

The company has always denied wrong-doing and says there is no evidence of the alleged contamination and claims it has been cleared by the results of independent research.

While the company itself is no longer on trial, the criminal trial of the president of Newmont’s operations in the area, Richard Ness, will continue.

If convicted he could be sentenced to a maximum of ten years in jail.

By Sam Bond

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