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Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) v. The Mines and Geology Division (MCD)

The Mines and Geology Division failed to grant access to all the information requested by an environmental non-governmental organization for maps and documents regarding commencement and completion dates for partial mined and mined out orebodies and certificate of completion and other documents stating the dates of reclamation, rehabilitation and restoration of each of the orebodies. The respondent argued that the information was not provided because it was not created or contained exempt material pursuant to Section 20 of the Access to Information Act. 

Destacados

[10] The Access to Information Act places a duty on public authorities to acknowledge receipt of every application and grant access to documents which are not exempt under the Act. The Authority has a duty to respond to the request within thirty days subject to a further extension of an additional thirty days.
[15] A trade secret must be information used in trade or business. In this case there can be no dispute as to whether the maps requested by JET are used for a trade or business, specifically that of mining companies.
[16] Notwithstanding the use of such maps for the purpose of carrying on business, the information revealed by the maps, being the location of ore bodies that have been mined out or partially mined, are not wholly or entirely confidential in nature and as such do not have a sufficiently high degree of confidentiality so as to be considered a trade secret.
[17] The maps requested by JET reveal nothing more than the areas which have been mined pursuant to the grant mining leases. The location and map of any area to be mined forms a part of the documented mining license. [...]
[18] Section 66 of the Mining Act stipulates that all mining licenses must be registered. The public is entitled to copies of or extract from any entry in a register by virtue of section 69 of the Mining Act.
[19] The right of the public to obtain access to maps showing the areas to be mined are further reinforced by the Mining Regulations which require the Commissioner of Mines to publish a notice setting out the main particulars of a mining lease once in the Gazette and once in a daily newspaper. [...]
[20] Any member of the public can readily obtain a map of the area being contemplated for mining. If maps showing areas to be mined are within the public domain then it is a fallacy to assert that maps of specific areas which have been mined are secret. Furthermore, ore bodies created through the process of open pit mining is so extensive and the visual impact so obvious and distinct that such areas cannot be shielded from the ordinary passerby.
[27] This is not a case where the request is for prospecting maps which serve to identify potential sites for orebodies. As stated previously, the only information revealed by the maps is the location of the ore bodies which have been mined out or partially mined. Where the ore bodies have been mined out, there can be no value to a competitor from obtaining such information as the mineral deposits have already been extracted.
[28] The Appellant submits that disclosure of the maps for areas partially mined or where a mining lease remains in effect, even to a competitor, will not prejudice the holder of a mining lease. The provisions of the Mining Act as stated above prohibit a competitor from mining the same area as the holder of a mining lease by virtue of the exclusive rights given to such holder.

[38] It is submitted that MGD failed to keep the appellant informed of the status of their request. JET received no response from MGD as to where a decision was taken regarding the request for an internal review and if so what was the actual decision. This effectively put JET in the position of having no documents and no knowledge as to whether the documents would be provided at all.

Decisión

The Tribunal decided that the maps and documents requested be made available to the applicant as they do not contain any matters exempt under the Access to Information Act. 

País

Fecha de la sentencia

02/04/2007

Órgano resolutor

Access to Information Appeal Tribunal