Uruguay: Senate Approves Controversial Mega-Mining Law

The Uruguayan Senate yesterday approved the controversial Large Scale Mining Bill which will regulate mega-mining projects in the country. Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining explained that large-scale mining includes projects that “will be billed at more than US$100m.”

The legislation also seeks to regulate taxation of private ventures, which will pay up to 50% of their profits to the state.

The legislation comes after 2,500m tonnes of underground iron deposits were found in Aratirí, central Uruguay. The planned investment of US$2,000m from a private contractor was suspended until the law is finalised. According to studies undertaken by the company, Uruguay has enough iron reserves to make the country the eighth largest producer of this mineral in the world.

The legislation supporting mega-mining gained the minimum requirement of only 16 votes in Senate, all from the governing left-wing coalition, Frente Amplio. It was rejected by the opposition. The controversial legislation will now return to the Lower House to confirm whether the representatives agree with the Senate’s amendment to the bill that regulates land excavation in large-scale mines.

Frente Amplio senator Oscar López Goldaracena, despite voting in favour of the law out of “party loyalty”, said that the issue of large open-pit mining “should have been resolved, along with other issues, as part of discussions in a Constituent Assembly of a new constitution.”

However, from the opposition, Jorge Larrañaga accused the government of being “sloppy” and that the decision to approve the new law “was handled opaquely.” Larrañaga also stressed that the law “in various areas commits long-term issues without sufficient social and political bases.”

Outside the Legislative Palace, the new law was also met with demonstrations from environmental activists of the Movement for a Sustainable Uruguay (MOVUS), and livestock producers in the area, who opposed open pit mining.

Juan Chiruchi went further in suggesting that the law was passed “with 15 votes and a half” and that it was therefore not legitimate.

Source: Chelsea Gray | The Argentina Independent