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As new global mercury treaty enters into force, worldwide mercury production skyrockets, 
notes Global NGO Coalition on World Environmental Health Day

Geneva, 26 September 2017- As 156 countries convened for the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention, 
a new UN report shows mercury mining skyrocketing in the last 5 years. Moreover, much of that mercury is used in artisanal and 
small scale gold mining (ASGM), the largest source of global mercury pollution.

Currently, countries do not have reliable information about trade in neighboring countries and within their own region. 
This problem is compounded where borders between countries are “porous,” and a significant portion of trade is informal or illegal. 
For example, mercury may enter a region through legal trade to one country, but then be traded illegally across borders to neighboring countries. 

“Informal trade is difficult to track, and therefore does not appear in the official trade statistics,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, 
Project Manager, Zero Mercury Campaign at the European Environmental Bureau. 
“With timely reporting, Parties can better understand mercury flows in order to better enforce trade restrictions in the Convention.”

“In recent years there have been a number of shocks to the global market, resulting in a doubling of the price of mercury in the last 12 months alone,” 
said Michael Bender, Co-coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group. “In addition, EU and US export bans now in place have resulted 
in a major shift in the main trading hub to Asia.”

“The emergence over the past five years of new small-scale producers of mercury in Mexico and Indonesia has made a difficult situation worse,” 
said Satish Sinha, Associate Director at Toxics Link in India. “Between these two countries alone, around 1000 tonnes are produced annually.”

“The main objective of the Minamata Convention is to protect human health and the environment by, in part, simultaneously 
reducing mercury supply and demand,” said  Rico Euripidou, Environmental Health Campaign Manager at groundWork 
in South Africa. Without adequate reporting on the global movement of mercury it will 
be difficult to monitor the overall effectiveness of the Convention, say NGOs.

“Annual reporting is consistent with the requirements of other environmental conventions such as Basel and the Montreal Protocol,” 
said Leslie Adogame, Executive Director at Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development in Nigeria.
“Legal trade flows must be understood before informal or illegal trade can be adequately addressed.”

An analysis of publicly available UN COMTRADE data over the period 2013-2016 (see below) reveals that the majority of global mercury flows 
from commodity trading centres (such as Hong Kong, Singapore and the UAE) to developing country regions (such as Africa and Latin America) 
where mercury use in ASGM is prolific in response to the largest global gold rush the world has ever seen. 

see table at the pdf

see also PR in FR 

Notes to the editor

http://www.mercuryconvention.org/

 https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/21725/global_mercury.pdf?sequence=1&;;isAllowed=y

http://www.ifeh.org/wehd/

www.zeromercury.org

For further information, please contact:                                         

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 " target="_blank"> 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 ">  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " target="_blank"> 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 " target="_blank"> 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 ">  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " target="_blank"> 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

David Lennett, Natural Resources Defense Council, T:  +1 202 460 8517    This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " target="_blank"> 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 "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " target="_blank"> 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

*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.

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

EEB LOGO FINAL

 




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.