**** LATEST NEWS! ****



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

Paints and varnishes PDF Print

Phenyl mercuric acetate (PMA) and similar mercury compounds have been widely used as water-based paint additives, and may still be used in some countries. These compounds were used as “in-can” preservatives to extend the shelf life by controlling bacterial fermentation in the can (biocides), as well as to retard fungus attacks on painted surfaces under damp conditions (fungicides).

Inorganic mercury compounds of very low solubility have also been used as additives in marine coatings and paints to impede bacteria formation and to hinder the development of marine organisms. This use is believed to have been largely discontinued by the mid-1970s (US DOC, as cited in NJ MTF, 2002).

Relevant legislation and NGO policy work

In the EU

The European Union directive 76/769/EEU restricts the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations, and includes a prohibition of the use of mercury substances in marine anti-fouling paints, wood preservatives, among others.


In theUSAthe use of mercury biocides in paint officially ended in 1991. Prior to that, mercury compounds were used in 25 to 30% of all interior latex paints (it was not used in oil-based paints), and in 20 to 35% of outdoor latex paints (Heier, 1990). An estimated 227 metric tons per year of PMA and other mercury compounds were used in paints in the USA between the mid 1960s and 1991 (NJ MTF, 2002). It would be interesting to carry out an inventory of the obsolete stocks of these paints that could still be stored in households.

Information is provided at http://www.epa.gov/hg/consumer.htm#bat bat and at http://www.newmoa.org/prevention/mercury/modelleg.cfm

In a reported incident of mercury poisoning in 1989 in theUS, the walls were painted with latex paint containing 930-955 ppm mercury (MMWR, 1990).

The use of mercury in paints has now been substantially reduced or eliminated in a large number of countries. Among others,Mauritius,Cameroon,Costa Rica,Japan,Norway, theUSAandSwitzerlandhave all discontinued this use (UNEP, 2002). Some paint industries inThailandhave no mercury in their processes or paints since 1991, and are certified as “green label.”

During the Global Mercury Assessment (UNEP, 2002) Thailand reported that less than 25% of the paint factories in Thailand still use mercury compounds as additives, and in quantities of not more than 0.5% of total weight. In Costa Rica, the regulation on the content of lead and mercury in paints sets a maximum limit of 50 ppm (0.005 %) mercury. Australia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Ireland, Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago (mostly discontinued now) have also indicated recent or continued use of mercury in paints (UNEP, 2002),