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

BRUSSELS - 16 AUGUST 2017
TODAY’S ENTRY INTO FORCE OF THE MINAMATA CONVENTION ESTABLISHES THE FIRST NEW MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENT IN OVER A DECADE.  THE ZERO MERCURY WORKING GROUP* HAS BEEN CALLING FOR A LEGALLY BINDING TREATY FOR OVER A DECADE AND WELCOMES THE NEW PROTOCOL.

“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.

ENDS 

For more information, see:

http://www.mercuryconvention.org/Negotiations/COP1/tabid/5544/language/en-US/Default.aspx

www.zeromercury.org

Contacts 

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)

 
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