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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

Home MERCURY AND ITS USES/EMISSIONS Mercury in processes Artisanal Small Scale Gold mining
Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining PDF Print
Friday, 23 September 2011 15:14

Artisanal Small Scale Gold mining (ASGM)

Artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM) is a complex global development issue. 

ASGM uses substantial amounts of mercury in mineral processing usually in highly unsafe and environmentally hazardous conditions. Mercury is used to bind the gold to form an amalgam, which helps separate it from the rock, sand and other materials. The amalgam is then heated to vaporize the mercury leaving the gold behind.

The use of mercury in ASGM continues to rise especially in developing countries mainly because it is considered simple and inexpensive. It is believed that ASGM produces 20 – 30 % of the world’s gold or approximately 500-800 tonnes per annum.

An estimated 10-15 million artisanal and small scale gold miners globally in approximately 70 countries are involved and eventually exposed to mercury.

ASGM is the largest demand sector for mercury globally (estimated at 650-1000 tonnes in 2005).

The amount mercury released within ASGM is dependent on the technique applied. The existing techniques include:

1.     Whole Ore amalgamation

In this process, mercury is added to all the ore being processes during crushing, grinding and sluicing. This is the most polluting way to use mercury. In many cases, only 10% of the mercury added to an amalgamating barrel or pan combines with gold to produce the amalgam. The rest (90%) is excess and must be recycled or released into the environment. This subsequently leads to widespread mercury levels in the surrounding environment and the most severe health exposure to the miners as well as non-miners.

2.     Gravity concentration (Panning)

This very common process involves concentrating gold with the heavier particles in the pan, while the lighter particles are sluiced away. Mercury is then added to the concentrates in order to amalgamate or gather the fine gold particles. About 10-15% of mercury releases from the ASGM are as a result of this process.

3.     Burning amalgam

Gold is also recovered from heating the amalgam through burning it in a metal pan over an open fire.When this is done without the use of a retort, mercury vapours are released into the air and inhaled by the miners.This practice produces atmospheric mercury emissions of about 300 metric tones per year worldwide. (GMP, 2006). The use of retorts to collect the mercury vapour can prevent mercury release into the atmosphere therefore reducing exposure to miners and the surrounding communities. With the use of retorts, about 95% of the mercury is recycled and can be re-used.

 Low mercury and mercury free solutions are available.

Relevant legislation and NGO policy work

In the EU

In the EU no ASGM takes place, apart from the French territories ofGuiana- where officially mercury use is prohibited under French law.

A relevant piece of legislation however is the EU Mercury Export Ban Regulation

Globally

Several projects and initiatives have been and  taking place globally, to reduce emissions from the sector.

The Global Mercury Project (UNIDO/UNDP/GEF) began in 2002 with a vision to address the environmental issue of mercury contamination from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) and to demonstrate ways of overcoming barriers to the adoption of best practices and pollution prevention measures that limit the mercury contamination of international waters from this sector. Six countries have been formally participating in the GMP:Brazil, Lao PDR,Indonesia,Sudan,Tanzania andZimbabwe. The GMP aims to introduce cleaner technologies, train miners, develop regulatory mechanisms and capacities within Government, conduct environmental and health assessments (E&HA) and build capacity within participating countries which will continue monitoring Hg pollution after the project.

Important work is currently being carried out under the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership on Reducing Mercury in ASGM. The partnership is lead by UNIDO and NRDC (Member of ZMWG).

A global inventory of ASGM projects is available.

Smaller on the ground projects have been taking place in Tanzania , funded by NGOs such as the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, the European Environmental Bureau/Zero Mercury Working Group and the Artisanal Gold Council.

The ZMWG has been following this issue closely and has been giving respective feedback at the global mercury negotiations. See also the ZMWG fact sheet  on Artisanal and Small Scale Gold mining (ASGM) (Jan 2011).

In the US the   Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008 is also a relevant piece of legislation - http://www.epa.gov/hg/regs.htm