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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 Press Releases EEB PR: Illegal mercury trade undermines Europe’s commitments towards strong mercury controls
EEB PR: Illegal mercury trade undermines Europe’s commitments towards strong mercury controls PDF Print
Wednesday, 09 March 2016 13:05



Illegal mercury trade undermines Europe’s commitments towards strong mercury controls 


Brussels, Belgium/Amman, Jordan, 9 March 2016

Commitments toward stronger global mercury controls are hampered in the EU by illegal mercury trade, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) revealed today on the eve of a UN mercury treaty meeting in Jordan.  The EEB stressed that global efforts to reduce mercury emissions may be undercut if gaps in EU mercury trade controls are not filled before the Minamata Convention on Mercury enters into force.

A now defunct German waste recycling company, DELA GmbH, was found in recent years to have illegally exported over 1,000 tons of excess metallic mercury mostly from the EU chlor-alkali industry, circumventing the EU export ban, with the illicit mercury making its way on to the global market.  DELA disguised the mercury as "waste" and exported around 500 tonnes to Switzerland, Greece, the Netherlands and other countries.  

DELA was reportedly able to get around the EU mercury export ban regulation by not solidifying/stabilising the mercury for storage and disposal as they were required by contractual obligation. The authorities still do not know where all the mercury went, but it is clear that many of the destination countries are known to trade with countries where there is significant artisanal small-scale gold mining. This industry straight-pipes mercury to the environment, also exposing miners and their families to this dangerous neurotoxin.

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, EEB Zero Mercury Project Manager, said:

“In order to stop the flow we need to first know where the mercury supply comes from and where it goes. The EU needs to do a ‘lessons learned analysis’ of what went wrong and then enact regulatory changes. While reviewing the new mercury regulations, we call on the EU to set up a trade monitoring system to record mercury trade information from exports and imports from/to the EU, within Member States and also within the industry sector.”

Many countries do not track mercury trade effectively and have no accurate listing of where surplus mercury goes due to a proliferation of illegal or smuggled supplies. At this week’s meeting in Jordan, it should be ensured that global reporting yields timely quantitative data on mercury production and trade to understand the global supply situation, and monitor Convention effectiveness in reducing the global mercury supply.

Michael Bender, ZMWG International Coordinator, added:

“Trafficking in mercury is not like selling potato chips. There are well known consequences when mercury gets haphazardly produced, traded and subsequently released into the biosphere. Mercury is a potent persistent neurotoxin that bioaccumulates, posing the greatest risks to developing children, coastal populations and millions of small-scale gold miners using mercury around the globe.”

The EEB believes that to effectively control and manage mercury trade, countries need to enact stronger regulations to track mercury trade from the cradle to the grave.

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo concluded:

“Preventing opportunistic illicit mercury trade through an efficient reporting and monitoring structure will help to prevent it from continuing. This should be a top priority for the EU. New provisions to close loopholes in the export ban, and taking measures going beyond the Treaty requirements, should become an integral part of the EU mercury regulation. Otherwise it will end up being just another paper tiger.

For more information:

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, ZMWG International Coordinator, 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 , +32 496 532818

Michael Bender, ZMWG International Coordinator, 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 , +1 802 9174579

Philippa Nuttall Jones, 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 , +32 (0) 2289 13 09

Notes to editors:

[1] Minamata Convention on Mercury was agreed in 2013 and has so far been signed by 128 countries and ratified by 23 nations, including the EU.  It is designed to protect human health and the environment from mercury pollution. The treaty bans new mercury mines, places control measures on air emissions, imposes regulations on artisanal and small-scale gold mining, and enforces the phase out of existing mines and products.

The meeting in Jordan this week is the seventh session of the intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC7) on mercury. Delegates are meeting to agree on the finer details of the agreement. This is the last meeting before the Convention enters into force, once 50 countries ratify it.

EEB letter to Environment Council March 2016, including comments on the EU mercury package.