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

24th-29th September, Geneva, Switzerland.

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) closely followed the First Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP1) in Geneva, Switzerland, 24th-29th of September 2017 and intervened as appropriate[1]. We were pleased to see the COP1 reached consensus on pending matters from prior meetings of the Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee (INC) which resulted in establishing an effective Convention operational framework for achieving significant mercury reductions.

Our main priorities for COP1 included adoption of forms and guidance that was approved at INC 7, and addressing the issues of reporting, waste thresholds, interim storage guidelines, effectiveness evaluation, and matters for future action, which included the following decisions.

  • Article 3 guidance on identifying mercury stocks, and the forms/instructions for complying with mercury trade consent and related certification requirements;
  • The product and process exemption forms and associated register of exemptions under Article 6 of the Convention; a registrar will be kept by the Secretariat and these will also be available to the public
  • Article 8 (air emissions) guidance on BAT/ BEP, options for existing facility control requirements, preparing emissions inventories, and selection of “relevant sources” within the specified source categories; and
  • The Guidance for preparing the ASGM National Action Plan (NAP) under article 7.

COP1 also saw significant progress concerning various other ZMWG priorities, including :

Reporting:          Forms were adopted for use by Parties to report back on the measures undertaken to meet Convention obligations and on the effectiveness of those measures.  In particular, ZMWG most welcomed the decision for a shorter reporting cycle for supply and trade, reporting per year data on a biennial basis. For other obligations, Parties will report every four years. It was also agreed that each Party will submit its first biennial report by 31 December 2019 and its first full report by December 2021. Parties are also encouraged to submit an electronic form,  and the Secretariat is requested to make the Parties electronic reports available.

Furthermore, it was agreed that Parties would provide access to their data related to mercury emissions, under Article 8. Parties would also provide the rational on how they plan to ensure that facilities responsible for at least 75% of the emissions from a source category are subject to controls.

Waste Thresholds:          COP1 established an intercessional work group to further elaborate on waste thresholds, building on a document introduced by Japan. As recommended by NRDC/ZMWG, the terms of reference for the working group were focused more on determining which mercury wastes warrant thresholds rather than assuming thresholds are appropriate for all wastes. The expert group will identify the types of waste that fall within the categories specified in paragraph 2 of Article 11, provide related information; prioritising the types of waste identified that are most relevant for the establishment of waste thresholds, and identify possible approaches to establishing any needed thresholds for those prioritised waste for consideration at COP2. We were also pleased to see COP1 approving the participation of civil society within the working group, another ZMWG priority.

Interim Storage:                             COP1 requested the Secretariat to undertake further revision of the draft guidelines through input from relevant experts, including technical experts from the Basel Convention and present a revised draft for consideration at COP2. Provisional use of the current draft guidelines is encouraged.

Effectiveness Evaluation:             COP1 adopted a draft road map for establishing arrangements both for providing comparable monitoring data and elements of an effectiveness evaluation framework, as ZMWG had sought.  To that end an ad hoc group of experts was established including 25 experts nominated by the Parties – 5 per region, as well as 10 civil society experts, including NGOs, as observers.

Matters for Future Action (Article 3) - (Article 14):              Several matters were brought up for consideration. Under Article 3, trade in mercury compounds was one of several issued identified for future consideration by the COP. In regards to Article 14 – Capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer, Parties and other stakeholder were invited to submit relevant information on capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer for the Secretariat to compile and present at COP2.

Despite progress made, challenges remain, both related to the location and structure of the Minamata Convention Secretariat and the Memorandum of Understanding regarding the financial mechanism of the Convention with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). The Secretariat will be temporarily located in Geneva, with further review of arrangements at COP2.

In summary, the final road map is now in place to ‘zero down’ global mercury pollution, but critical work remains.   ZMWG looks forward to a productive second meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which will be held in Geneva 19-23 November 2018.   



[1] All ZMWG interventions are available on our website http://www.zeromercury.org/index.php?option=com_content&;;view=article&id=309:unenvironment-minamata-mercury-cop1-24-29-september-2017-geneva-switzerland&catid=54:developments-main-category&Itemid=104

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Cultural uses PDF Print
Friday, 11 March 2011 17:21

The characteristics of mercury have led to a range of beliefs across the world. For instance its sudden movement’s characteristic is believed to mean that it will furnish remedies more quickly. It is also said to prevent evil and bad luck form sticking to a person because of its slippery nature.

Mercury has long been used in ethnocultural or religious practices such as Santeria (an Afro-Hispanic belief system), Palo Mayombe (Caribbean), Candomble (Afro-Brazilian), voodoo (Afro-Haitian) and Yoruba Orisha (Afro-Hispanic) among others. Most of these uses are associated with African roots and many of them are related to the Roman Catholic teachings of Spaniards.

In Hindu scriptures, parad (mercury) is regarded as the best of all metals. The opportunity to touch and worship a parad Shivalinga (statue or icon) is believed by some to reward one's holy and good deeds done in the previous and present life. If one meditates beside a parad Shivalinga, it is believed the mind naturally gets concentrated. Mercury is used in such statues, objects and amulets throughout Hindu areas of India for a range of health-related, ceremonial and religious purposes. Mercury is also applied to the skin or used in bathwater, perfumes, lotions and soaps; injected subcutaneously to ward off evil and protect against exposure to diseases while travelling (Prasad 2004) or intramuscularly to help athletes build muscle mass.

Mercury was brought to the new world by Spaniards for use in extracting gold from ores. Its amalgamating properties led to a belief that mercury attracts good fortune, wealth and love.

Mercury is also used in many Asian (especially Chinese) medicines. Ernst and Coon (2001) reported that dozens of Chinese medicines contain Cinnabaris – a complex of sulphides that contain mainly mercuric sulphide; Calomelas – mercurous chloride (calomel); or Hydrargyri

oxydum rubrum – red mercuric oxide. (See also Guangdong, 1997.) No doubt these are among the approximately 1000 homeopathic products identified by the US Food & Drug Administration to contain mercury in varying amounts (Maxson, 2004). China’s emperor, QIN Shi Huang Di (260 BC – 210 BC) took mercury pills in an attempt to achieve eternal life, but instead he dies from mercury poisoning.

Certain herbal remedies and religious items are said to contain substantial amounts of mercury. A good example is the ‘azogue’ – a metallic mercury capsule known to contain up to 8 - 9mg mercury. This capsule is supposedly used to attract luck, love, good health or money; to protect against evil; or to speed the action of spells through a variety of recommended uses. Other uses include:, carrying mercury in a sealed pouch prepared by a spiritual leader, wearing it as an amulet, sprinkling it on the floor or in an automobile, mixing it with perfumes or adding it to devotional candles or oil lamps. For pharmaceutical purposes it is also sometimes taken internally to treat gastrointestinal disorders, or added to bath water, detergent or cosmetic products (NJ MTF, 2002).

In such uses, mercury vapours are released if the mercury is not contained in sealed containers. Such practices as sprinkling it in homes and automobiles, and especially burning it in candles and oil lamps, increase the rate of vaporization.

Researchers estimated that this use of mercury is likely to cause long-term contamination of more than 13,000 homes or apartment buildings in New York City each year, where toxic vapours can linger for months or even years, leading to possible neurological and respiratory symptoms in appartment residents (NRDC, 2004).

A major problem associated with ritualistic mercury use is the contamination of wastewater, where it is estimated that 27% of the users dumped their residual, unused mercury down the drain> In addition, when it is used in bathwater, it gets into the wastewater streams.


Relevant legislation
and NGO policy work

No specific legislation appears to exist restricting use of mercury in religious artifacts.

In 2005, the Indian NGO Toxics Link, under the Zero Mercury Working Group work, released a report on 'The Religious use of Mercury In India: A Case Study of “Parad”

In the US see relevant laws and regulations