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A Toxics-Free Future


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Mercury Treaty COP 4 Interventions

IPEN intervention on reporting (Article 21)

Madame President, distinguished delegates, as this is the first opportunity that IPEN has had to take the floor we would like to extend our gratitude and appreciation to our Indonesian hosts and the convention secretariat for the organisation of this meeting. The International Pollutants Elimination Network is an organisation of over 600 public interest NGOs in more than 120 countries around the world working together for a toxics-free future for all.

The experience of the short format reporting phase which ended in December 2019 demonstrated that while high reporting rates were achieved the quality of the data received was so poor that it was very problematic. This has largely been attributed to ambiguity in the reporting questions. The responses from parties did not permit the secretariat to:

  • deduce the total amount of mercury mined per year during the reporting period.
  • provide an estimate of the total stocks of mercury held by parties and the sources of mercury supply located in their territories and may limit the ability of the secretariat over time to aggregate information on stocks and sources in a meaningful way
  • obtain an overview of the amount of mercury being traded between parties and non-parties, nor the purposes for which the mercury was traded or to ascertain whether the provisions of article 3 are being met. The destination, quantity and use of traded mercury is unclear.
  • distinguish between the amount of elemental mercury or cinnabar ore being produced in primary mines
  • determine with any accuracy whether all parties who claimed they had final mercury waste disposal facilities actual did so.

For this reason, further resources, capacity building and guidance should be forthcoming to ensure that the COP is permitted a full and frank disclosure of the state of mercury mining, trade and use.

Statement of the Co-Chairs of IPEN

Dr. Tadesse Amera and Pamela Miller

Dear Honorable Presidents and Distinguished Delegates. We serve as Co-Chairs of the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) of over 600 public interest NGOs in more than 120 countries around the world working together for a toxics-free future for all. We recognize that this meeting addresses essential items required for the continuation of the Convention, including budgeting and finances, effectiveness evaluation, and national reporting. On behalf of IPEN, we wish to convey our sincerest wishes for the health and well-being of everyone in attendance and for a productive meeting that brings urgency to the global public health crisis caused by mercury contamination and leads us swiftly toward a future where present and future generations are no longer harmed by mercury.

Our research over the past several years has demonstrated the harm caused by mercury contamination in communities throughout the world. In 2017, IPEN researchers coordinated hair sampling with 1044 women of child-bearing age across 25 countries on 6 continents. Analysis found that 42% of women had average mercury levels over the US EPA health advisory level of 1ppm, above which brain damage, IQ loss, and kidney and cardiovascular damage may occur. Our 2018 study found elevated levels of toxic mercury in women of child-bearing age in countries across the Pacific, Caribbean, and Indian Ocean in 21 small island states and countries. More than half of all women who were sampled measured above the US EPA level of concern, and three out of four women measured had mercury levels that have been associated with the onset of mercury-related impacts to fetal development.

Our recent study published in June 2021 found that a high percentage of women in three Latin American countries who rely on fish for protein and who live in proximity to gold mining activity have elevated mercury levels in their bodies. Indigenous Bolivian women living in two communities over 300 kilometers apart on the Beni River exhibited extremely high body burdens of mercury. Hair samples of women from the Eyiyo Quibo and Portachuelo communities were among the highest levels seen since IPEN began its mercury biomonitoring program in 2011. These women subsist almost exclusively on fish from the Beni River as their main protein source. They are not involved in mining and gain no benefit from the gold trade. This is an urgent health and human rights issue.

These studies present unambiguous and dire evidence that mercury pollution poses an immediate threat to a significant portion of the world’s population. They highlight serious weaknesses in the Convention that must be urgently amended to prevent further harm from major sources of mercury exposure. We urge bold action to curtail primary sources of mercury pollution—coal-fired power plants and mercury gold mining.

Weaknesses in the Minamata Convention on Mercury continue to facilitate the global trade in mercury and its diversion to ASGM despite national prohibitions on the practice. It is estimated that between 14-19 million people are engaged in artisanal and small-scale gold mining worldwide. Most of that mining takes place in remote areas and most miners are impoverished subsistence workers. As many other uses of mercury in products and processes are being phased out, most global trade in elemental mercury is being directed toward ASGM and continues to contaminate lands and waterways around the world. Amendments to the Convention which dramatically reduce global supply are necessary to restrict legal and illegal shipments of mercury destined for ASGM. The Convention must stop the 'allowable use' of mercury in ASGM. No amount of gold or coal is worth the poisoning of our waters and the damage it will cause to women and their children.