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Toxic Trade Emerges as Priority Issue for Asia During Mercury Treaty Adoption: Japan mercury exports cited

 Kumamoto, Japan; 10 October 2013:  As world governments bask in the celebration prepared by the government of Japan for the newly minted Minamata Convention on Mercury, the Zero Mercury Working Group [1] is calling on all countries – including Japan – to help stem the rise of Asia as the world’s mercury trading hub.

 “Traders are increasingly circumventing the export bans imposed by the EU and US by seeking safe havens, particularly in Asia,” said Richard Gutierrez, director of Ban Toxics in the Philippines. “Countries can stop this toxic globe trotting by enacting mercury export bans, following the lead of major trading giants the US and EU.”    

 Japanese exports of mercury accounted for about 400 metric tonnes over the past 4 years, according to UN data. [2] The mercury is frequently shipped to countries [3] where artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM) is prevalent, or to major trading centers where it can be traded for ASGM purposes. 

 Japan previously resisted NGO calls earlier to enact similar export bans, awaiting completion of the treaty negotiation process.  With the treaty text now finalized, NGOs are calling for Japan to immediately act.

 “Given its experience with Minamata, Japan should be taking the lead by shutting down its mercury exports,” stated Piyush Mohapatra, Coordinator at Toxics Link in India.  “It can not turn a blind eye to its own toxic exports, especially if it could be creating new “Minamatas” elsewhere in Asia and Latin America.”

  The largest mercury trade hub arising is Singapore.  According to UN COMTRADE data, Singapore was the largest supplier of mercury to the global market in 2012.[4]  During 2011 and 2012, Singapore accounted for approximately 444 MT and 478 MT of global mercury exports respectively.[5]

 Since Singapore imported even larger quantities during this period, it is acting as a toxic supply center for private traders. [6] The majority of these exports are directed to countries engaged in ASGM, with Indonesia receiving over half the exports in both years, and substantial quantities also shipped to Guyana, Kenya, Peru, and Malaysia.[7]

 Hong Kong is also a major trading center, with mercury exports of about 211 MT in 2011 and 245 MT in 2012. “Singapore and China need to differentiate mercury from other commodities, since the free trade of mercury endangers public health.” explains David Lennett, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.  

 Under the Minamata Convention, the trade in mercury will be controlled, largely through an informed consent procedure.  However, 50 countries will need to ratify the treaty before it comes into legal force. 

  “While there are alternatives to mercury and controls for major sources, there is no alternative to international cooperation,” said Michael Bender, ZMWG Coordinator. ”Let’s turn these good intentions into meaningful action on the ground so that developing countries don’t bear the brunt of toxic trade.”

 With the momentum created in Kumamoto this week, and the prospect of financial and technical support coming during the next years, the group believes that the Minamata Convention can set a new standard for the speed of ratification for multilateral environmental agreements.

 “Mercury pollution will not wait for the treaty to enter into force.  It is happening now,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, ZWMG coordinator.  “The global community should pursue ratification and implementation with urgency.”

- END -

 Contacts: 

Richard Gutierrez, BAN Toxics!, T: +63 2 355 7640, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " data-mce-href="mailto: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, ZMWG International Coordinator,, T: +32 2 2891301, Mobile: +32 496 532818, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " data-mce-href="mailto: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

David Lennett, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council, T 1-202-289-2380, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " data-mce-href="mailto: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Michael Bender, ZMWG International Coordinator, T: +802-917-4579, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " data-mce-href="mailto: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Background reading:

 http://www.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/MinamataConvention/ConferenceofPlenipotentiaries/DipConMeetingDocuments/tabid/105833/Default.aspx

 Endnotes:

  1.  Zero Mercury Working Group is an international coalition of over 95 NGOs from more than 50 countries,  see: www.zeromercury.org
  2. This mercury is typically generated within Japan, from metals byproduct generation and other sources.  See: http://comtrade.un.org/db/dqBasicQueryResultsd.aspx?action=print&;;px=H3&cc=280540&r=392, viewed August 23, 2013.  Note:  to view the UN Comtrade database, please see instructions at: http://unstats.un.org/unsd/tradekb/Knowledgebase/How-to-query-data-from-UN-Comtrade.  The commodity code for mercury is (HS 2007) 280540.
  3. Such as Colombia, Brazil, Indonesia, Viet Nam.
  4. See http://comtrade.un.org/db/dqBasicQueryResults.aspx?y=2012&;;cc=280540&px=H3&so=9999&rpage=dqBasicQuery&qt=n, viewed August 23, 2013.  Spain exported a larger quantity of mercury in 2012, but virtually all the trade stayed within the European Union.
  5. See http://comtrade.un.org/db/dqBasicQueryResultsd.aspx?action=print&;;px=H3&cc=280540&r=702, viewed August 23, 2013.
  6. See http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-05-24/the-slippery-market-for-mercury#p4.
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The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) is an international coalition of over 95 public interest environmental and health non-governmental organizations from more than 50 countries from around the world formed in 2005 by the European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project.  ZMWG strives for zero supply, demand, and emissions of mercury from all anthropogenic sources, with the goal of reducing mercury in the global environment to a minimum.  Our mission is to advocate and support the adoption and implementation of a legally binding instrument which contains mandatory obligations to eliminate where feasible, and otherwise minimize, the global supply and trade of mercury, the global demand for mercury, anthropogenic releases of mercury to the environment, and human and wildlife exposure to mercury.

ZMWG Member Organisations

Europe-EU

Central and Eastern Europe

Africa

Asia Pacific

North and Central America

Latin America

Arab Countries


ZMWG is also working closely with the following coalitions:

International POPs Eliminations Network (IPEN)

Health Care Without Harm (HCWH)

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)

Greenpeace


INTERESTED TO JOIN?

An NGO (non profit, public interest group) can join the ZMWG by endorsing the ZMWG Guiding Principles, and by agreeing to become an active member of the coalition.  

If you are interested in being a member of the group please fill in the application form . Please let us know how you found out about the group and our mercury work.

Contact

 For all information please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or Michael Bender This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

History

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) started, in November 2004, in collaboration with the (international) Ban Hg Working Group and mainly the Mercury Policy Project, the ‘Zero Mercury’ Campaign having as its ultimate objective ‘Zero’ emissions, demand and supply of mercury, from all sources we can control, in view of reducing to a minimum, mercury in the environment at EU level and globally.

Our work at a global level, from the side of the NGOs, started in 2002, with the formation of the international Ban Mercury Working Group (Ban Hg Wg) (www.ban.org/Ban-Hg-Wg/) – formed initially by 2 US based NGOs, the Basel Action Network (www.ban.org) and the Mercury Policy Project (MPP) (www.mercurypolicy.org).


The Ban Hg-Wg is an international coalition of 27 public interest non-governmental organizations from around the world formed in 2002 to reduce and eliminate mercury pollution, trade and exposure.


The Ban Hg WG followed actively the UNEP discussions since then and participated actively in the formulation of the Global Mercury Assessment (December 2002) after request from the 21st UNEP Governing Council in 2001.

After receiving a special grant in November 2004, the EEB is continuing this work, collaborating closely with the international coalition and coordinating this new ‘Zero Mercury’ Campaign, which builds up on the work done so far and goes even further, extending the network worldwide.In 2005, an EU network was developed, to bring together and re-enforce the work done on mercury so far by individual environmental and health NGOs.

The Zero Mercury Working Group and a respective listeserver was created.

The different phases of the Zero Mercury Campaign can be seen below:

Zero Mercury Campaign - Phase I (Nov. 2004-Oct. 2005)

Zero Mercury Campaign - Phase II (Nov. 2005-Oct. 2006)

Zero Mercury Campaign - Phase III (Nov. 2006-Oct. 2007)

Zero Mercury Campaign - Phase IV (Nov. 2007-Oct. 2008)

Zero Mercury Campaign - Phase V (Nov. 2008-Oct. 2009)

Zero Mercury Campaign Follow up (July 2009 - ongoing)

 

The EU/international group of NGOs working on mercury will continue to broaden to support the project.

 

 

Zero Mercury Campaign Follow up (July 2009 - ongoing)

From July 2009 onwards the Zero Mercury Campaign has been following mainly international work at UNEP level supporting the work of the Zero Mercury Working Group, in view of ensuring that a robust Mercury Treaty will be adopted by 2013. At the same time, the campaign has been assisting technically and financially NGOs from developing countries (and some in Europe), supporting national/regional projects which would help the ZMWG achieve its global objectives for a strong Mercury Treaty.

Zero Mercury Campaign - Phase V (Nov. 2008-Oct. 2009)

The fifth phase of the project includes the following activities:

  • Follow up of the process at EU level – developments on legislative proposals implementing the Community Strategy on Mercury; follow up on a) the proposed regulation on an EU mercury export ban and the storage of surplus mercury mainly concerning storage issues, b) expanding the directive on restricting the use of mercury in thermometers- to sphygmomanometers, c) developments on the maximum level of mercury set in energy saving lamps. Other studies/actions, resulting from the strategy will be followed up - such as on the mercury in dental amalgams, IPPC etc. .
  • Follow-up on the chlor-alkali campaign ; ensure that the existing mercury cell processes are converted swiftly to cleaner mercury free technologies and that the decommissioned mercury will be safely stored and will not re-enter the market. Follow up actions will continue in the five EU countries (Legambiente/IT, Ecologistas en Accion/SP, Arnika/CZ, DNR/Germany and FNE/France) pushing and following up activities at national political level in view of establishing a national commitment/ law on a conversion date and monitoring/contacting the local authorities responsible for the IPPC permits.
  • Attention will be given to the use of mercury-free devices in healthcare. Campaigners will assist the EU policy work with input to case studies from national experiences, to show that a transition to mercury-free healthcare can take place at EU level.
  • Follow up of the process at UNEP level - Push towards a global legally binding solution. Follow up developments after the decision of the UNEP Governing Council (GC) in 2007 and prepare the ground for the debate and active participation at the UNEP GC, February 2009. Activities include cooperation with NGOs all over the world ( EU, US, Developing countries) and input to UNEP towards that direction and in preparation of the other relevant meetings. Feeding into this debate, activities in other international fora will be followed up.
  • Helping affected Developing countries – financial assistance will continue to the 4 NGOs from developing countries for active involvement. Support will be given for national activities as well as participation at international level, to assist in the global campaign to Toxic Links/India, ACPO/Brazil, Ban Toxics!/Philippines and Global Village of Beijing/China.

Zero Mercury Campaign - Phase IV (Nov. 2007-Oct. 2008)

The fourth phase of the project includes the following activities:

  • Follow up of the process at EU level – developments on legislative proposals implementing the Community Strategy on Mercury; follow up on a) the proposed regulationon an EU mercury export ban and the storage of surplus mercury, b) EU scientific opinion on dental amalgam. Other studies/actions, resulting from the strategy will be followed up - such as on the mercury content in lamps.
  • Follow-up on the chlor-alkali campaign from Phase III; ensure that the existing mercury cell processes are converted swiftly to cleaner mercury free technologies and that the decommissioned mercury will be safely stored and will not re-enter the market. Follow up actions will continue in the five EU countries (Legambiente/IT, Ecologistas en Accion/SP, Arnika/CZ, DNR/Germany and FNE/France) pushing and following up activities at national political level in view of establishing a national commitment/ law on a conversion date and monitoring/contacting the local authorities responsible for the IPPC permits. Emissions will be measured around the specific plants in France. Events will be organised and a reports will be produced. An EU snapshot report will be produced following a survey on the implementation of the IPPC directive in the chlor-alkali sector. In parallel, a fish testing exercise will take place - results from mercury analysis in tuna and swordfish from 5 EU countries will be presented.
  • Follow up of the process at UNEP level - Push towards a global legally binding solution. Follow up developments after the decision of the UNEP Governing Council (GC) in 2007 and prepare the ground for the debate and active participation at the UNEP GC, February 2009. Activities include cooperation with NGOs all over the world ( EU, US, Developing countries) and input to UNEP towards that direction and in preparation of the 2nd OWEG on mercury (October 2008). Feeding into this debate, activities in other international fora will be followed up.
  • Helping affected Developing countries – financial assistance will continue to the 4 NGOs from developing countries for active involvement. Support will be given for national activities as well as participation at international level, to assist in the global campaign to Toxic Links/India, ACPO/Brazil, groundwork/South Africa and Global Village of Beijing/China.

Zero Mercury Campaign - Phase III (Nov. 2006-Oct. 2007)

The third phase of the project includes the following activities:

  • Follow up of the process at EU level – developments on legislative proposals implementing the Community Strategy on Mercury; follow up on a) the proposed directive on restricting the use of mercury in certain non electrical and non electronic measuring and control devices (e.g. thermometers, barometers) and b) on the proposed regulationon an EU mercury export ban and the storage of surplus mercury. Other studies/actions, resulting from the strategy will be followed up - such as on the dental amalgam.
  • Follow-up on the chlor-alkali campaign from Phase II; ensure that the existing mercury cell processes are converted swiftly to cleaner mercury free technologies and that the decommissioned mercury will be safely stored and will not re-enter the market. Follow up actions will continue in the three EU countries (Legambiente/IT, Ecologistas en Accion/SP, Arnika/CZ) with part time campaigners. Actions will start in Germany and France pushing and following up activities at national political level in view of establishing a national commitment/ law on a conversion date and monitoring/contacting the local authorities responsible for the IPPC permits. Emissions will be measured around the specific plants. Events will be organised and a reports will be produced.
  • Follow up of the process at UNEP level - Push towards a global legally binding solution. Follow up developments after the decision of the UNEP Governing Council (GC) in 2005 and prepare the ground for the debate and active participation at the UNEP GC, February 2007. Activities include cooperation with NGOs all over the world ( EU, US, Developing countries) and input to UNEP towards that direction. Feeding into this debate, activities in other international fora will be followed up.
  • Helping affected Developing countries – financial assistance will continue to the 4 NGOs from developing countries for active involvement. Support will be given for national activities as well as participation at international level, to assist in the global campaign to Toxic Links/India, ACPO/Brazil, groundwork/South Africa and Global Village of Beijing/China.

Zero Mercury Campaign - Phase II (Nov. 2005-Oct. 2006)

The second phase of the project includes the following activities:

  • Follow up of the process at EU level – developments on Community Strategy on Mercury ; the strategy will be discussed at the European Parliament; 2 legislative proposals are awaited from the EC: a)on restricting the use of mercury in certain non electrical and non electronic measuring and control devices (e.g. thermometers, barometers) and b) on an EU mercury export ban and the storage of surplus mercury. Other studies/actions, resulting from the strategy will be followed up.
  • Providing input focused on the chlor-alkali industry; ensure that the existing mercury cell processes are converted swiftly to cleaner mercury free technologies and that the decommissioned mercury will be safely stored and will not re-enter the market. Three EU countries (Legambiente/IT, Ecologistas en Accion/SP, Arnika/CZ) with part time campaigners will be pushing and following up activities at national political level in view of establishing a national commitment/ law on a conversion date and monitoring/contacting the local authorities responsible for the IPPC permits. Emissions will be measured around the specific plants. Events will be organised and a reports will be produced.
  • Follow up of the process at UNEP level - Push towards a global legally binding solution. Follow up developments after the decision of the UNEP Governing Council (GC) in 2005 and prepare the ground for the debate for the next UNEP GC, February 2007. Activities include cooperation with NGOs all over the world ( EU, US, Developing countries) and input to UNEP towards that direction. Feeding into this debate, activities in other international fora will be followed up.
  • Helping affected Developing countries – financial assistance will continue to the 4 NGOs from developing countries for active involvement. Support will be given for national activities as well as participation at international level, to assist in the global campaign to Toxic Links/India, ACPO/Brazil, groundwork/South Africa and Global Village of Beijing/China.

 

Zero Mercury Campaign - Phase I (Nov. 2004-Oct. 2005)

The campaign moves along 4 levels, with complementary activities towards the same goal:

  • Take part in the discussions at EU level - Community Strategy on Mercury ; an EU Strategy on mercury has been requested from the European Council and was presented by the Commission on 28 January 2005.
  • Activities in Spain - Stop mercury mining and trade in Almaden: The biggest mercury mine in the world is situated in Almaden, Spain. The owner company, MAYASA, is collecting and trading internationally (mainly to Developing countries) the mercury from Western Europe decommissioned chlor-alkali plants (using the mercury-cell process, which is not considered to be BAT (1) under IPPC (2) and will eventually have to be replaced). The EEB is working closely with its Spanish member Ecologistas en Accion towards supporting an EU mercury export ban, stopping MAYASA from becoming the world’s largest platform of mercury pollution and proliferation and amongst other, raising awareness of the effects of mercury export to developing countries.
  • Take part in the process at International and UNEP level - Push towards a global legally binding solution. Mercury was on the agenda of the UNEP Governing Council planned for end February 2005. Activities include cooperation with NGOs all over the world ( EU, US, Developing countries) and input to UNEP towards that direction.
  • Support environmental organisations in affected developing countries - 4 NGOs from developing countrieswill be financially assisted for active involvement. Support will be given for national activities as well as participation at international level, to assist in the global campaign.

The EEB receives a special grant from the Sigrid Rausing Trust for this activity

_____________________________

1 Best Available Techniques, http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/ippc/index.html
2 Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control, http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/ippc/index.html