Minamata Convention on Mercury

Little Pro on 2016-01-07

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury and its compounds. It was agreed at the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in Geneva, Switzerland at 7 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, 19 January 2013. More than 140 countries have ratified the Convention.

The major highlights of the Minamata Convention on Mercury include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing mines and mercury-added products, as well as control measures on air emissions. The table below gives you an overview of the Convention.

Minamata Convention on Mercury

Hazards of Mercury and Its Compounds

Mercury and its various compounds are widespread and persistent in the environment. They have a range of serious health impacts including brain and neurological damage especially among the young. Others include kidney damage and damage to the digestive system. Victims can suffer memory loss and language impairment alongside many other well documented problems.

Main Provisions of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

Mercury and its compounds
  • New mercury mines are banned;
  • Existing mercury mines will be phased out in 15 years since the date of entry into force of the convention;
  • Export is only allowed if a written consent has been received from importing party;
  • Import from a non-party is not allowed;
  • Exemptions: Quantities of mercury or mercury compounds to be used for laboratory-scale research or as a reference standard; and naturally occurring trace quantities of mercury or mercury compounds.
Mercury-added products
  • The manufacture, import or export of mercury-added products will be banned after phase-out date 2020;
  • Examples: Batteries, Switches and relays, Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and non-electronic measuring devices;
  • Some products are excluded: For example, where no feasible mercury-free alternative for replacement is available, switches and relays, cold cathode fluorescent lamps and external electrode fluorescent lamps (CCFL and EEFL) for electronic displays, and measuring devices;
  • More exemptions available to a Party upon request.
Manufacturing processes
  • The use of mercury or mercury compounds in a new facility is banned;
  • The use of mercury or mercury compounds in some manufacturing processes will be phased out after phase-out date;
  • Examples: Production of polyurethane using mercury containing catalysts , Vinyl chloride monomer production .

The complete list of mercury-added products and manufacturing processes to be phased out and their phase-out dates can be found in the Annex A and Annex B of the Convention.

Impacts of the Minamata Convention

The Minamata Convention has a big impact on companies who produce and trade mercury and its compounds and those who use them in certain manufacturing processes. The broader impact is on those companies who manufacture or distribute certain products that may contain mercury and its compounds (intentionally or un-intentionally added) such as batteries, measuring devices, fluorescent lamps and switches.

Parties to the Convention usually have their own regulations to address mercury and its compounds. Business operators shall check their own legislation for detailed requirements.

Reference & Resource

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