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


“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.


For more information, see:




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 Press Releases IPPC Directive toothlless on mercury phase-out
IPPC Directive toothlless on mercury phase-out PDF Print
Thursday, 18 December 2008 01:00
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[Brussels, 18 December 2008] – EEBi, Europe's largest federation of environmental citizens' organisations, today published an assessment of EU legislation on improving the environmental performance of the EU chlor-alkali sector, focussing on the use of mercury in the chlorine production industry. Based on the conclusions of this study, the EEB reiterates its call for the need for separate legislation of this industry and to set a sunset date for an obsolete process using mercury.

The report shows that the Industrial Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directiveii is not helping to phase out mercury from mercury-cell chlor-alkali plants (MCCAP). Emission limit values and other requirements in permits are not strict enough to drive the industry toward better performance and rather encourages business as usual. The permits confirm the status quo instead of addressing the aims of the EU Mercury Strategy to reduce use and emissions of mercuryiii.

“Allowable emissions of mercury differ from country to country and from plant to plant leading to an unequal - as well as often inadequate - level of protection of EU citizens,” said Elena Lymberidi­Settimo, EEB’s Zero Mercury Campaign project coordinator. “Such an approach ignores the fact that mercury is a globally persistent, bioaccumulative pollutant, overlooks the negative effect at the EU and global levels of adding mercury to the environment, and is in direct contravention of the IPPC Directive which states that particular attention needs to be given to such substances.”

Until now the inherent flexibility of the IPPC Directive and the fact that no clear benchmarks are given in the related chlor-alkali reference documentiv have led to the abuse of the Directive by this industry and authorities in order to keep old, polluting mercury-cell plants operating for as long as they are profitable. However, the mercury-cell process is not the ‘Best Available Technique’ (BAT) for the sector, as confirmed at EU level. Mercury-free alternatives for chlorine production, such as the membrane process which consumes up to 30% less energy, have been commercially available since the 1980s. The chlorine industry is in good enough financial health to support the required investment in such a change, especially as the payback period is quite modest.

Furthermore, the EU’s chlorine industry reports an average of 41 tonnes of ‘unaccounted for’ mercury per year, much of which ends up released into the environment, and authorities have not been questioning such losses. Significant mercury emissions into the air have also been shown in different countries in the EU from EEB member organisations’ own spot measurements in public areas outside the plants. The EEB report shows that there is yet more evidence, further to our 2006 studyv, that mercury air emissions from the EU’s chlorine plants may be significantly under­reported.

EEB’s newly released document sets out key recommendations on better ecological management of this sector:

  • An industry-specific law including a sunset date for the mercury-using process should be set. The EEB has been advocating 2010 as a phase-out date for many years, in line with the 1990 OSPAR Decisionvi.

Until then:

  • The role of the Best Available Technique Reference Documents (BREFs) and BAT acknowledged membrane cell technology in the IPPC Directive must be made more stringent and permits should be based on that.
  • The BREF document on the chlor-alkali industry needs to be revised rapidly with a maximum
    emission limit value of 0,2- 0,5 g mercury/tonne of chlorine production capacity, for MCCAPs.
  • Continuous monitoring should be required for plants still operating with mercury.
  • Regular reporting should be requested from operators justifying mercury consumption and losses.

European Environmental Bureau (aisbl)
Blvd de Waterloo 34, 1000 Brussels, Belgium – Tel: +32 2 289 1090 – Fax: +32 2 289 1099 – This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it '; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text7354 ); document.write( '<\/a>' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
www.eeb.org www.participate.org www.newngoforum.org www.zeromercury.org

For further information please contact:-

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, EEB Zero Mercury Project Coordinator: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Tel: +32 (0)2 289 1301

Vanessa Bulkacz, EEB Press & Publications Officer: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Tel: +32 (0)2 289 1309

Editor’s notes:-

Press release can be found at:

http://www.zeromercury.org/press/081218 PR EEB 0Hg Chlor-AlkaliPubFinalREV. pdf

The new report, ‘The European Chlor-alkali Industry – Is National Implementation of the IPPC Directive contributing to a mercury-free industry?’ and all other EEB/ZMWG reports are available from www.zeromercury.org

Link to new report (December 2008): http://www.zeromercury.org/EUdevelopments/ChlorAlkali-1208- FINAL.pdf

Risky Business! No need for mercury in the chlorine industry. [October 2006] http://www.zeromercury/EU developments/06 111 0RiskyBusinessFINAL.pdf

Status Report: Mercury Cell Chlor-alkali Plants in Europe [October 2006] http://www.zeromercury/EU developments/Final Report CA 31 Oct2006. pdf

Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic, damage the central nervous system and are particularly harmful to foetal development. Mercury builds up in humans and animals and becomes concentrated through the food chain, especially in certain fish. It is widely diffused through the atmosphere and has contaminated global food supplies at levels which pose a major risk to human health, wildlife and the environment.

In the EU more than 40% of chlorine production is still based on the mercury-cell process. Forty-four mercury-cell chlor-alkali plants (MCCAPs) are still in operation in Europe, housing around 11,000 tonnes of mercury.

The European Parliament in its March 2006 resolution on the EU Mercury Strategy called for a phase out of the mercury-cell chlor-alkali industry by 2010.

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do;jsessionid=95602FA6620D4603B5773BF54FA62DFD.node 2?language=EN&pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P6-TA-2006-0078+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

i The European Environmental Bureau, (EEB), www.eeb.org, is a federation of more than 150 environmental citizens’ organisations based in EU Member States and most Accession Countries, as well as in a few neighbouring countries. The aim of the EEB is to protect and improve the environment of Europe and to enable the citizens of Europe to play their part in achieving that goal.

The Zero Mercury Working group, www.zeromercury.org, is an international coalition of more than 75 public interest non-governmental organizations from around the world formed in 2005 by the EEB and the Mercury Policy Project/Ban Mercury Working Group. The aim of the group is to reach “‘Zero’ emissions, demand and supply of mercury, from all sources we can control, towards eliminating mercury in the environment at EU level and globally.”

ii Directive 96/61/EC. For the full text of the IPPC Directive please see: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31996L0061:EN:NOT

iii Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament - Community Strategy Concerning Mercury {SEC(2005) 101} http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:52005DC0020:EN:NOT

iv Best available technique Reference (BREF) Document under the IPPC directive, http://eippcb.jrc.ec.europa.eu/pages/FActivities.htm

v EEB, by Concorde East/West, Status Report: Mercury-cell chlor-alkali plants in Europe, October 2006.

vi In 1990, OSPAR Decision 90/3 of 14 June, recommended reducing chlor-alkali mercury emissions to 2 grams of mercury per tonne of Cl2 capacity and phasing out the activities of existing mercury-cell installations in chlor-alkali production plants as soon as possible, with the aim of achieving the objective of their total closure by 2010 at the latest, www.ospar.org/documents/dbase/decrecs/decisions/pd90-03e.doc