groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)
Zero Mercury Working Group

GOVERNMENTS GET ‘C’ GRADE SINCE MERCURY TREATY APPROVED - Governments globally must do more to curb supply and trade of mercury

Durban, South Africa, 30 October 2014 — Governments around the world are not doing enough to reduce the global supply and trade of mercury, according to a new report [1] released today by the Zero Mercury Working Group (‘Zero Mercury’) [2]. But they are showing progress in other areas such as developing plans to reduce mercury use in small-scale gold mining and phasing out mercury-based chlorine plants.

The 95-member international coalition of public interest, environmental and health groups graded governments based on an initial assessment of global mercury reduction activities to promote rapid implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury adopted a year ago.

“There are worrying trends in mercury trade and production,” said Rico Euripidou, Environmental Health Campaigner at groundWork [3], a Zero Mercury member. “We call on governments to do a better job of curtailing mercury flows to promote global mercury use and release reductions, and better protect public health.”

Mercury, a neurotoxin, can cause brain and nervous system damage, and is a particular hazard for the developing fetus and small children.

The countries were graded based on an “Action Challenge” issued by Zero Mercury when the treaty was adopted in October 2013. Grades were based on both government actions and any significant global trends or global activities. 

South Africa had committed to the following two Zero Mercury Working Group challenges:

While the report praised the good progress made in the development and implementation of Nation Action Plans to address small-scale gold mining [4], achieving mercury use and emissions reductions for this sector will require better performance on supply and trade.

“Recently, there have been disturbing international developments pointing to increased mercury production at a time when production should start declining,” said David Lennett, Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.  “Also, much of the mercury trade is for small-scale gold mining, a highly polluting activity. This reinforces the critical importance for more nations to take decisive actions to reduce production and/or ban mercury exports.”

The report notes that developments on supply and trade also have important implications for the Mercury Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee (INC) meeting in Bangkok, Thailand between 3 to 7 November. 

“These developments highlight the need for the INC to provide for timely information on mercury production and trade,” said Richard Gutierrez, Executive Director of Ban Toxics. “At the upcoming Convention meeting, governments should develop reporting requirements for mercury production and trade so the Convention can quickly address issues as they arise.”   

Zero Mercury also urges governments to request that the Minamata Convention Interim Secretariat provide an update on global mercury supply, demand and trade report in advance of the next Convention meeting, INC 7, to be held in late 2015 or early 2016. 


[1] The Zero Mercury Working Group “Action Challenge and Interim Report” can be found at
[2] 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
[3] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Coal, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International
[4] Miners isolate gold by mixing ores dug from the ground or from stream beds with mercury to form an amalgam. When the amalgam is burned, the elemental mercury vaporizes into a toxic plume while the gold stays behind.


Megan Lewis
Media and Communications Campaigner
Tel (w): 033 342 5662
Tel (m): 083 450 5541

Rico Euripidou
Environmental Health Campaigner
Tel (w): +27 (0) 33 342 5662
Mobile: +27 (0) 83 519 3008

Zero Mercury Working Group:

Michael Bender
Tel (w): +802-917-4579