Minamata Convention on Mercury to enter into force

New York, 18 May 2017 -The European Union and seven of its Member States, namely Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Romania and Sweden, have deposited their instruments of ratification with the Office of Legal Affairs at the UN Headquarters in New York, bringing to 51 the current number ratifying the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

As a result, in 90 days, on 16 August 2017, the Minamata Convention, which aims to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds, will become legally binding for all its Parties. (Article 31 of the Convention provides that it shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the fiftieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.)

The Convention was signed after three years of negotiations by delegates representing close to 140 countries on 19 January 2013 in Geneva, and was adopted later that year, on 10 October 2013, at a diplomatic conference held in Kumamoto, Japan.

The Convention is named after the Japanese city of Minamata where, in the 1950s, a fertilizer and later petrochemical company discharged waste containing mercury into the bay, resulting in 900 people dying and 2,265 people being certified as having directly suffered from mercury poisoning – now known as Minamata disease.

It is expected that over the next few decades, Minamata Convention on Mercury will enhance the reduction of mercury pollution from the targeted activities which are responsible for the major release of mercury to the immediate environment.

The first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention is scheduled to take place from 24 to 29 September 2017 in Geneva. It will play a critical role in the future of the Convention as it will consider issues and adopt decisions covering technical, administrative as well as operational and financial matters.

The updated list of Parties to the Convention can be found at www.mercuryconvention.org/Countries

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) actively participated in the preparatory meetings that led to the adoption of the Convention text and can look back at more than 20 years of experience reducing mercury emissions to the environment.

UNIDO has been leading and facilitating the introduction of clean technologies and policy reform to minimize the use and discharge of mercury. One area of focus is Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining and in a number of countries UNIDO is introducing cleaner technologies, training miners, developing regulatory mechanisms and capacities within the government, conducting environmental and health assessments, and building capacity in local laboratories to continue monitoring mercury pollution.

UNIDO’s technical assistance also addresses other mercury industrial sectors, such as mercury waste management, zinc smelting and chlor-alkali production.

Supporting countries in their efforts to prepare for and meet their future commitments under the Minamata Convention is an important component of UNIDO’s efforts to help achieve inclusive and sustainable industrial development through the Sustainable Development Goals.