New Treaty’s Entry Into Force Set to Curtail Global Mercury Crisis, Say NGOs

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa 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, mercury respects no boundaries and exposes people everywhere,” said [Rico Euripidou, Environmental Health campaigner for groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa. “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 will enter into force on August 16.

“We are now on the right track line.”  “Over time, the Convention is expected to provide the necessary technical and financial resources to reduce exposure risks 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. Mercury is a powerful and toxic mental, which can cause blindness, brain damage, comas and death. Mercury has already cost many environmental and health disasters around the world, including Kyushu, Japan in 1956 and in Cato Ridge, South Africa, in a case that started in 1988 and still affects communities even today because the government has failed to clean up the old Thor Chemical storage plant. Mercury emissions and their health implications still remain a huge concern in South Africa, especially in areas like the Mpumalanga Highveld that have many coal mines and coal fired power stations which release mercury emission when they burn coal.

The treaty, which South Africa joined in 2013, holds critical obligations for parties to ban new primary mercury mines while phasing out existing ones, and 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:

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

www.zeromercury.org

Contacts:

Rico Euripidou, groundWork Environmental Health Campaigner, 0835193008

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Coordinator ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’, European Environmental Bureau, ZMWG International Coordinator
T: +32 2 2891301, elena.lymberidi@eeb.org

Michael Bender, ZMWG International Coordinator, T: +1 802 917 8222,  mercurypolicy@aol.com