Uruguayan Court Orders Release of Mine Information

17 December 2014

The Civil Court of Appeals in Uruguay has ordered the release of information about an iron mine, finding that disclosure under an environmental law trumps the company’s confidentiality claim. (See decision in Spanish.)

In confirming a lower court decision, the court said the Ministry of Industry must release the information related to the mining project “Aratiri.”

Last November, the civil society group Uruguay Libre filed a lawsuit for access to the technical reports about the mining project. The Ministry didn´t answer the request, which under the ATI Uruguayan Bill (n. 18.831) is considered as a “positive silence” (silencio positive). The suit said failure to reply obliges the state to provide the information under the law.

The corporation in charge of the Aratiri project argued that it had invested about $200 million to obtain the information about the iron reserves at the site and that the data had a commercial value for which it sought confidentiality. The defendant also said the that “positive silence” couldn’t be applied to confidential info, thus is only applicable to public information.

The Ministry denied the “positive silence” claim, saying had told the plaintiff that it was impossible to provide the requested information because it wasn´t the property of the State.

In ordering disclosure, the court relied on another law, Bill 19.216 that establishes that information cannot be confidential when it refers to environmental aspects of a project.

It also ruled that under the RTI law (Bill 18.831) exceptions shall be interpreted with a strict criteria. Thus, confidentiality could only be applied preliminary to the technical reports and not to the totality of the information contained in the file.

Further, the court said that defendant has the duty to prove that an exception should apply to the case, but didn’t specify in detail what kind of information was in the file and why it should be kept confidential. The tribunal stated that a resolution called the National Direction of Mining and Geology (DINAMIGE) is vague, general and imprecise in such a way that it couldn’t limit the right of access to information.

 

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