I met Richard Ness, the head of a gold mining company Newmont Minahasa Raya, through this blog.
I posted a piece here in November 2005 asking the question: Did Newmont Do It?
I was referring to Buyat Bay in northern Sulawesi, Indonesia, and allegations that the beautiful bay had been polluted by mine tailings.
About a year after I posted the piece Richard emailed me, including comment that: “What has come out from court ordered resampling of the bay is that the Waters of Buyat are cleaner than on average, the Atlantic, Pacific and English Channel.”
Last week Richard Ness was in court again pleading his innocence. He opened his 13 hour testimony in Manado, Indonesia, with comment that:
“I beg the court’s indulgence if at some points throughout this document that my writing depicts some anger, frustration, pity, and in some cases even contempt for some of the issues raised. I hope that the Honorable Panel of Judges can understand that these expressions of emotion are not directed at this court or the Honorable Panel of Judges, but rather at the subject matter or the individuals under discussion.
This Panel of Judges has been searching for the truth and I express my respect
to the Honorable Panel for your patience and the work they have undertaken
towards separating reality from pretense and facts from illusions. I have to
state that I have been treated very fairly before this court in an effort to find the
real truth and while the trial can be deemed fair, the investigation, examination,
indictment and the charges against me are certainly not fair or justified!
The allegation that Buyat Bay is polluted is a sham, and only supported by
falsehood and error.
There were several opportunities to correct this travesty before the indictment was issued, but each time the opportunity was lost. If the law had been followed from the beginning, there would never have been an indictment; if the Prosecution had examined the evidence, there would have never been charges or a sentencing request and I would not have needed to write this pledoi [testimonial].
Although one can reflect back on what could have been but the reality is I am seated before this court, defending myself of a crime that never occurred.”
[Read the complete transcript by clicking here]
Richard Ness claims there is no evidence to suggest Buyat Bay was ever polluted by mine tailing from Newmont Minhasa Raya and that the case against him is a fabrication orchestrated by environmental NGOs supported by naïve western journalists including New York Times journalist Jane Perlez.
The same day the New York Times published its feature by Ms Perlez, the World Health Organisation published a detailed technical report which concluded that Buyat Bay was not contaminated by mercury or cyanide and that levels of mercury among villagers were not high enough to cause poisoning and that the health effect of mercury and cyanide poisoning were not observed among Buyat Bay villagers.
This was the first of several reports, including a detailed report by Australia’s CSIRO and another by the Indonesian Ministry of Environment, which directly contradicted an initial Indonesian police report and found the bay to be unpolluted.
Richard’s testimony brings to a close what has been a long and acrimonious trial. A judgment is expected within the month.
Here are some links to recent media reports:
PT Newmont Boss Begins Defence in Indonesia
Resource Investor – Herndon,VA,USA
St. LOUIS (ResourceInvestor.com) — Newmont executive Richard Ness, on trial in Indonesia for allegedly polluting Buyat Bay, read his ‘pledoi’ to the court … http://www.resourceinvestor.com/pebble.asp?relid=28339
INDONESIA: Indonesia Newmont boss says no complaints on mining
CorpWatch.org – Oakland,CA,USA
PT Newmont Minahasa Raya, which operated a gold mine in North Sulawesi province, and its president director Richard Ness face charges over allegations the …
Newmont Indonesia boss rejects pollution charges
Reuters AlertNet – London,England,UK
PT Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR), which once operated in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province, and its president director Richard Ness face charges over … http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/JAK52760.htm
Indonesian blogger, Ong Hock Chuan, invites Walhi, one of the NGOs that launched the initial attack against Richard Ness, to explain how “activist NGOs on the whole make Indonesia a better or worse place to live and do business”: http://theunspunblog.com/2007/01/25/open-invitation-to-businesses-and-indonesian-ngos-to-respond/#comment-6058
Richard’s son Eric has commented at his blog that: The actions of some of the NGOs portrayed in this documentary (Mine Your Own Business) parallels my Dad’s experience in this Buyat Bay case. People like Rignolda and Raja Siregar have utilized well-planned misinformation campaigns and lies in the name of environmentalism. Dr. Jane Pangemanan did not hesitate to misrepresent the illnesses in the Buyat Bay community as mercury poisoning. Such allegations were decisively disproved by the WHO, CSIRO and other governmental reports. These individuals have been discredited now in the court. But the salient question is: will these NGOs resort to these methods again? I plan to continue this debate further in the weeks to come. The time has come for NGOs to become more thoughtful, and more truthful in their campaigns. Read more:
And for more information on Richard Ness: http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/001697.html .