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New treaty’s entry into force set to curtail global mercury crisis, say NGOs


“While there are alternatives to mercury, there are no alternatives to global cooperation,” said Michael Bender, coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group. “Mercury respects no boundaries and exposes people everywhere”
“Only a global pact can curtail this dangerous neurotoxin.”

In October 2013 the convention text was adopted and signed by 128 countries, but would not take legal effect until at least 50 countries had ratified it formally.  This milestone was reached in May of this year, and the convention enters into force today 16 August. 

“We are now on the right track,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Manager, European Environmental Bureau and ZMWG co- coordinator. 

“Over time, the Convention is expected to provide the necessary technical and financial resources to reduce the risk of exposure to mercury worldwide. Governments must therefore move swiftly towards efficient implementation of the Treaty’s provisions”.

The aim of the Convention is "to protect the human health and the environment” from mercury releases.

The treaty holds critical obligations for Parties to ban new primary mercury mines while phasing out existing ones and also includes a ban on many common products and processes using mercury, measures to control releases, and a requirement for national plans to reduce mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining.  In addition, it seeks to reduce trade, promote sound storage of mercury and its disposal, address contaminated sites and reduce exposure from this dangerous neurotoxin.

The First Conference of the Parties will take place from 24 to 29 September 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.  Over 1,000 delegates and around 50 ministers are expected to assemble in Geneva to celebrate and lay the groundwork for the treaty’s overall effectiveness.

The Minamata Convention joins 3 other UN conventions seeking to reduce impacts from chemicals and waste – the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.


For more information, see:




Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Coordinator ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’, European Environmental Bureau, ZMWG International Coordinator
T: +32 2 2891301,  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: +1 802 917 8222,   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

Notes to the editors:

Mercury is a global pollutant that travels long distances. Its most toxic form – methylmercury - accumulates in large predatory fish and is taken up in our bodies through eating fish, with the worst impacts on babies in utero and small children. 

*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.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe's largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations, standing for environmental justice, sustainable development and participatory democracy. Our experts work on climate change, biodiversity, circular economy, air, water, soil, chemical pollution, as well as policies on industry, energy, agriculture, product design and waste prevention. We are also active on overarching issues as sustainable development, good governance, participatory democracy and the rule of law in Europe and beyond.

We have over 140 members in over 30 countries.

EC register for interest representatives: Identification number 06798511314-27
International non-profit association - Association internationale sans but lucratif (AISBL)

Mercury Fact sheet - Mercury sources, uses and emissions(2) PDF Print E-mail
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Mercury Fact sheet
Mercury sources, uses and emissions(2)
Mercury exposure and effects

Mercury sources, uses and emissions(2)

Mercury is released by natural sources like volcanoes, by evaporation from soil and water surfaces, as well as through the degradation of minerals and forest fires. However, it should be noted that a part of today’s emissions from soil and water surfaces is composed of previous deposition of mercury from both anthropogenic and natural sources.
Mercury is also contained as a trace element in coal. The large use of coal-fired power plants in generating electricity, make mercury emissions to the air from this source among the world’s largest.
Furthermore, mercury is available on the world market from several sources;

  • Mine production of primary mercury (extracted from ore) still mainly occurs in Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, and China, and until only recently (2003) in Spain. Several of the mines are state-owned. There are also reports of small-scale artisanal mining of mercury in China, Russia (Siberia), Outer Mongolia, Peru and Mexico mainly serving local demand.
  • Mercury occurs as a by-product of mining or refining of other metals (such as zinc, gold, silver) or minerals, as well as refining of natural gas.
  • Reprocessing or secondary mining of historic mine tailings containing mercury.
  • Recycled mercury recovered from spent products and waste from industrial processes.
  • Private stocks (such as mercury used in the chlor-alkali and other industries).

Examples of uses of mercury, in no particular order, include:
As a metal (among others):

  • For extraction of gold and silver (for centuries)
  • As a cathode in the mercury-cell process for chlor-alkali production
  • In electrical and electronic switches
  • In fluorescent lamps
  • In discharge lamps (e.g. streetlights and some automobile headlights)
  • In thermometers
  • In thermostats
  • In manometers for measuring and controlling pressure (sphygmomanometers)
  • Barometers
  • In dental amalgam fillings

As a chemical compound (among others):

  • In batteries
  • Vaccines (as preservative in form of ethylmercury in thimerosal)
  • Biocides/fungicides in paper industry, paints and on seed grain
  • In pharmaceutical antiseptics
  • Laboratory analysis reactants
  • Catalysts (e.g. to product vinyl chloride monomer)
  • Pigments and dyes (may be historical)
  • Detergents (may be historical)
  • Soaps and creams (as a bactericide and/or whitening agent)
  • Explosives (may be historical)

Many of these uses have been reduced significantly in many industrialised countries, particularly during the last two decades. However, many of the uses discontinued in the OECD countries are still alive in other parts of the world. Several of these uses have been prohibited or severely restricted in a number of countries because of their adverse impacts on humans and the environment.
In the EU mercury is not used in detergents, soaps, paints, biocides, gold mining (except in French Guyana) and mercury-containing soaps are banned for export by Annex V of Regulation (EC) No. 304/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2003 concerning the export and import of dangerous chemicals (OJ L 63, 6.3.03, p. 1-26).

Mercury enters the environment (air, water and soil) mainly through:

  • Coal combustion.
  • Municipal and medical waste incinerators.
  • Steel production.
  • Cement production.
  • Chlor-alkali production
  • Crematoria
  • Artisanal gold-mining
  • Dental amalgams
  • Mercury-containing waste
  • Smelting and refining of metal ores

Last Updated on Friday, 30 July 2010 16:40