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Summary of the Second Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury

19-23 November, 2018, Geneva, Switzerland.

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) closely followed the Second Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP2) in Geneva, Switzerland, 19-23 November 2018, and intervened as appropriate Our main priorities for COP2 were waste thresholds, interim storage guidelines, and effectiveness evaluation. We also closely followed matters for future action, including the review process of annexes A and B; and harmonized custom codes to distinguish mercury-added products.

Waste Thresholds

Decision MC2/2 established a process to develop mercury waste thresholds. As advocated by ZMWG, an expert group will focus its efforts on establishing mercury content thresholds for “waste contaminated with mercury”.  The group will also develop lists of wastes falling under three definitional categories: “consisting of mercury,” “containing mercury” and “contaminated with mercury.”

Effectiveness Evaluation

Decision MC 2/10 amended the effectiveness evaluation roadmap set forth in COP 1, modifying the experts mandate and composition of its membership while agreeing on an outline of work.  The group will review the outcome indicators developed previously as part of the EE framework, and further elaborate on sources of information and baselines for those indicators. It will consider how to integrate monitoring data into the framework. In addition, the group will identify those categories of monitoring data most effective in providing information on global trends, what data could be used to assess the impact on levels and trends of mercury, and data limitations. Importantly, as advocated by ZMWG, the group will also assess the information, identify gaps and outline options to enhance the quality of the information.

Interim storage 

Decision MC 2/6 adopted the interim mercury storage guidelines which included a number of key elements to facilitate environmentally sound management.  We were pleased to see many of the important elements that ZMWG had proposed during the intersessional period are included in the guidelines, including provisions on financial assurances related to closure of the sites.

Releases

Decision MC 2/3 established an intersessional process to identify relevant point source categories of releases of mercury and mercury compound to land and water, including the establishment of a group of technical experts.

Contaminated sites

Decision MC 2/8 invites parties and other stakeholders to submit additional comments and information to complement and further improve the draft guidance, calling in particular for information and comments to make the guidance more practicable.

Review of Annex A and B

No specific decision was taken by the COP to start reviewing annexes A and B. However, a call for relevant information was launched by the Secretariat to prepare for COP3.

This is an important area for ZMWG; given the technological and political developments around the world since Annex A and B were adopted in 2013, we will be seeking to further strengthen the Convention.

HS Codes for mercury-added products

The Decision requests the Secretariat to suggest approaches for modifying customs codes to allow countries to distinguish mercury-added products from those products that do not contain mercury, including approaches for possible harmonization among countries. This is an important success for ZMWG, in support of the Global Mercury Partnership, recognizing the critical need for Parties to identify the production, import and export of mercury-added products to comply with Article 4.

Other issues

Other issues included a request for further information on capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer; as well as on the SIP; a small modification to the rules of procedure of the Implementation and Compliance Committee; and a decision that the secretariat of the MC will be autonomous and based in Geneva, with special arrangements with the BRS Secretariat. Finally, a new president, David Kapindula (Zambia), was elected for COP 3, along with new Bureau members.

ZMWG looks forward to a productive third meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Geneva 25-29 November 2019.   

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Mercury Trade, Supply and Storage PDF Print
Friday, 11 March 2011 17:01

Mercury Trade, Supply and Storage

A critical element of reducing mercury use and pollution is reducing the global mercury supply. Reducing global supply will help to reduce mercury demand, by raising the price of mercury and making it more difficult to acquire.  This result is especially important for lowering mercury uses that are difficult to address directly or through legal restrictions, such as small-scale gold mining. Because mercury cannot be destroyed or converted into other substances, reducing global supply requires reducing and ultimately eliminating international trade of mercury and creating safe long-term storage for existing mercury stocks.

Sources of Mercury Supply

Main Mercury Sources

Metric Tons Per Year

Primary mercury mining

1300-1600

By-product mercury from mining other metals, and natural gas production

400-600

Decommissioning Chlor-alkali facilities

700-900

Recovery of mercury from spent used products, and other wastes

600-800

 Government or private mercury stocks

As needed

TOTAL

3100-3900+


Primary mercury mining is the least preferred source of mercury because it adds new mercury to the global mercury reservoir, and mining activities are significant sources of mercury air pollution.  Kyrgyzstan and China are the only countries that still operate large-scale primary mercury mines, and only Kyrgyzstan mines for export.
                Mining other ores such as gold, zinc, lead, and copper can generate significant quantities of by-product mercury during smelting and refining activities.  Pollution control devices at metal mines add to the quantity of byproduct mercury by trapping mercury air pollution.  Producers of natural gas also capture elemental mercury in order to prevent corrosion of their production lines.
                Significant quantities of mercury are generated from collection, recycling and reprocessing of mercury-containing products, and industrial wastes, particularly in the developed world. Reprocessed mercury is a growing source of mercury supply as environmental regulations divert mercury during waste management for safety and environmental reasons.
                Particularly large quantities of mercury become available when mercury cell chlor-alkali plants close or convert to non-mercury processes.  Capturing and storing mercury from these decommissioning chlor-alkali facilities is an efficient and cost effective way to reduce the global mercury supply because large quantities are already aggregated at one location.

Trade Restrictions & Storage Plans
                Export bans in the EU and USA, effective in 2011 and 2013 respectively, are projected to reduce the annual global supply by about 40%. Both the EU and USA are currently preparing safe storage requirements and developing storage capacity for this material. Elsewhere in the world, regional assessments of current and projected excess supply have been completed for Asia, and the Latin America/ Caribbean regions.  Options for storage are being discussed in each of these regions. Substantial work has been carried out on storage under the UNEP Mercury Storage and Supply partnership.


Relevant legislation and NGO policy work

In the EU

In 2008, the European Governments agreed on a Regulation to ban mercury export and to safely store the surplus mercury. the full work of the NGOs, as well as all relevant papers can be found in this section: EU mercury export ban and safe storage

Globally

In the US,the Mercury Export Ban Act (PDF) (8 pp, 166K, About PDF) was signed into law on October 14, 2008. The Act includes provisions on both mercury exports and long-term mercury management and storage. Because the United States is ranked as one of the world's top exporters of mercury, implementation of the act will remove a significant amount of mercury from the global market. Currently, mercury is exported from the United States to foreign countries where it has various uses, including for use in small-scale gold (artisanal) mining. This use of mercury raises worker safety and environmental emissions issues. To aid in addressing these concerns, EPA has provided expertise to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)'s Global Mercury Project's artisanal mining project, which focuses on best management practices to reduce occupational exposure, emissions and mercury use.

US NGOs Natural Resources Defense Council and Mercury Policy Project have worked hard towards have this law adopted.

In Japan, the NGO CACP in cooperation with Ban Toxics! of Philippines and the Zero Mercury Working Group have been working towards a Japanese mercury export ban. Several meetings and a symposium were organised in 2010, under a ZMWG/EEB supported project. More details about this project can be found here.

On  storage,  the ZMWG, under the UNEP Mercury Supply and Storage Partnership, has been giving substantial input on the relevant studies on the Asias and Latin America situtation, since it also was the interim lead of the partnership area. The provided input can be found here.