Expose illegal mercury trading using new approach

Mercury pollution is a huge issue around the world and the Minamata Convention (MC) aims to restrict and limit the trading of mercury in a bid to reduce the use of this highly toxic pollutant. Efficacy of MC still remains a question considering that many countries involved in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), the biggest source of mercury pollution, are MC parties and despite this mercury pollution continues to rise.

Researchers have now developed a new method of examining global mercury trade data inconsistencies based on estimating and comparing the mercury input of ASGM activities to the total mercury available domestically.

The MC requires its signatories to stop all trade in metallic Hg, restrict the opening of new primary Hg mines, stop domestic Hg production by 2032, and stop the production and trade of Hg-added products (such as thermometers and Hg-vapor lamps) by 2020.

Researchers examined global Hg trade data inconsistencies by estimating the Hg input (the Hg that enters the amalgamation process and is lost with tailings and amalgam burning) of countries with ASGM activities and comparing this input amount to the total Hg available domestically (apparent Hg consumption). Researchers say that using this method they are able to screen out trade routes of interest thereby highlighting potentially illegal and informal mercury use flows that have appeared post-MC.

The study was performed in 39 countries across four regions. The team identified inconsistencies in Hg trade statistics in African, Central and South American, and some Asian countries. Countries that are parties to the MC showed reduced metallic Hg trade, and those with national action plans (NAP) demonstrated clear active steps towards controlling Hg flow.

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