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The European Commission has launched an online consultation on issues related to the ratification and implementation by the EU of the Minamata Convention on mercury. The Convention was signed in October 2013. At that time, it was the first international environmental agreement concluded in a decade. It is a global treaty that aims to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury, and aims to phase out many of its current uses. Mercury is indeed a highly toxic element used in industry, in products such as thermometers, dental amalgam, batteries and light bulbs. It is also released unintentionally through the burning of fossil fuels (particularly by coal-fired power plants). Around half of the mercury currently released into the atmosphere comes from human activity. The EU already has in place a comprehensive body of mercury-related legislation, regulating trade in mercury, products containing mercury, waste aspects, water quality aspects, emissions to the atmosphere and releases to water and land.  The EU signed the Minamata Convention and now intends to become a party. Certain additional measures will need to be added to existing EU legislation in the following areas:

  • Import restrictions for metallic mercury from non-parties
  • Export ban for certain products containing mercury
  • Mercury use in products and processes not yet placed on the market
  • Restrictions on certain processes where mercury is used
  • Mercury use in Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM)

Access the consultation

Photo: Alan Grinberg

Issue 36