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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 Energy Dept. Considers Sale of Mercury Stockpile; Sen. Obama, Health Advocates Instead Recommend Do...
Energy Dept. Considers Sale of Mercury Stockpile; Sen. Obama, Health Advocates Instead Recommend Domestic Storage of Dangerous Neurotoxin PDF Print
Monday, 27 November 2006 01:00

Washington, DC—The U.S. Department of Energy is being urged to store rather than sell its 1300+ metric tons of surplus mercury on the world market.

In a recent letter to DOE Secretary Samuel Bodman, U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) “...strongly urged the Department of Energy to ensure that mercury stockpiles remain within the possession of the U.S. government.”

The senator was joined by the Zero Mercury Working Group and Natural Resources Defense Council in warning that U.S. mercury exports could wreak havoc in developing countries and then “boomerang” back to the U.S.

"We've got to stop the cycle of toxic trade in mercury which winds up polluting the fish we eat, " said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project and cofounder of the Zero Mercury Working Group, a coalition of 48 public interest NGOs working worldwide to reduce mercury uses, releases and exposures, and store surplus mercury.

“There is no question that mercury from this sale would find its way up the food chain, onto our plates, and into our bodies,” said Dr. Linda Greer, an environmental toxicologist and director of NRDC’s Environmental Health Program. “Inviting less developed countries to a close-out sale on surplus American poison is sheer lunacy given what we know about how easily mercury moves around the globe.”

Advocates suggest that DOE follow the lead of the Defense Department which due to global environmental concerns decided to store rather than sell over 4,000 tons of its surplus mercury. They also support Senator Obama’s legislation to ban mercury exports.

Sales of surplus mercury by DOE would place the U.S. Government at odds with states, said Bender. A March 2006 Environmental Council of States resolution states that “ECOS remains strongly opposed to U.S. mercury stockpile sales and recognizes that long-term storage of mercury is a federal responsibility.”

“Given its prior support in 2005 for a new, soon-to-be-released UNEP mercury trade report, any U.S. Government sales now could be viewed as hypocritical,” said Bender. “Instead, like recently proposed in the EU, the U.S. should ban mercury exports, both to reduce global pollution and exposure to millions of gold miners in developing countries.”

The DOE mercury stockpile is more than eight times the amount exported in 2004 by the U.S. Once used in weapons and other energy-related technologies, the mercury is now obsolete. Currently, most of DOE’s mercury is stored at the Y-12 National Nuclear Security Administration in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.


Exposure to mercury can lead to neurological diseases and such developmental problems as learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders and mental retardation. Elevated mercury levels in adults can adversely affect fertility, blood pressure, and may contribute to heart-rate variability and heart disease.

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For more information:

http://www.mercurypolicy.org http://www.zeromercury.org http://www.nrdc.org

See also http://releases.usnewswire.com/printing.asp?id=76725