May 22, 2007 / 6:24 PM / 13 years ago

Newmont CEO blasts Indonesian appeal

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The head of Newmont Mining Corp. (NEM.N) on Tuesday criticized an appeal by Indonesian prosecutors against the acquittal of an executive of the U.S. gold mining company in a criminal pollution case.

Chief Executive Officer of Mining Corp. Wayne Murdy attends the Reuters Global Mining and Steel Summit in New York in this June 6, 2006 file photo. Murdy on Tuesday criticized an appeal by Indonesian prosecutors against the acquittal of an executive of the U.S. gold mining company in a criminal pollution case. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

“From my standpoint it is just outrageous that they would do this after the very definitive decision handed down from the judges,” Chief Executive Wayne Murdy told the Reuters Global Mining and Steel Summit via telephone from Denver.

His reaction came a day after Indonesian prosecutors filed an appeal document in a bid to overturn the ruling clearing a local unit of Newmont in the high-profile pollution case.

On April 24, a court in the Indonesian city of Manado acquitted PT Newmont Minahasa Raya and its U.S. president, Richard Ness, of criminal charges of allegedly dumping of toxic waste into a bay near a gold mine in North Sulawesi.

Responding to a question from Reuters journalists about the case, Murdy said it cost Newmont “tens of millions of dollars” as well as bruising its reputation.

“We felt all along that the litigation was without merit and was bogus from the beginning. It took a long time, but we were very pleased with the decision.”

He repeated that if the verdict had gone against the company, Newmont would have had to very seriously consider its investment in Indonesia.

Murdy said under Indonesian law an appeal against an acquittal was unheard of. “We find it incredible that they would do that. Clearly the prosecutors feel they had to do it.”

In Manado on Monday, Purwanta Sudarmadji, who heads the prosecution team, told Reuters he was filing an appeal “because the judges’ ruling is not in line with Indonesian law.”

He said one of the reasons for the appeal was the prosecution felt the panel of judges had made a decision on the case in summing up on November 17, 2006, months before the last court session ended on March 16, 2007.

“The judges also only considered witnesses and evidence that benefited the defendants but disregarded evidence from prosecutors,” Sudarmadji said.

The document will be submitted to the Supreme Court in Jakarta after Newmont submits its legal argument to counter the appeal, he added.

The not-guilty verdict coincided with Newmont’s annual meeting, at which shareholders overwhelmingly approved a board-backed resolution urging the company to report on the impact of its mining operations on local communities globally.

On Tuesday, Murdy said the company was serious about its responsibilities to the environment and local communities. The social-consciousness proposal was “not just window-dressing.

“Indonesia hurt, from a reputation standpoint,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ness, the Newmont executive acquitted in the case, has sued the New York Times for libel. Newmont has not sued the newspaper.

The newspaper had run several stories highlighting comments by local villagers who claimed to have been sickened from fish caught in Buyat Bay.

Last month, Murdy said independent tests, by the World Health Organization and other bodies, “demonstrated the bay was clean and the fish safe to eat.”

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