By Hugh Finlay
In Switzerland, a convention has been created to restrict the trade in mercury. The Minamata Convention, held at Geneva, is taking measures to stop further mercury pollution worldwide. The Convention is named after Minamata, a Japanese bay where large amounts of mercury waste was dumped over many years. Almost 80 countries, including China, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, and Peru, have ratified the treaty. The treaty came into force in August 2017.
The European Union has already banned exports of mercury. So it is important that Switzerland fully agrees to the terms of the convention, and ban all exports of mercury from Switzerland. As Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, the European manager of the Zero Mercury Campaign, put it "If there is a partial ban,how can anybody control where mercury goes after? if it goes to another trader, it could again go to artisanal and small-scale gold mining, so it has to be a full ban."
A Swiss government official, Franz Perrez said "Switzerland will follow the convention; it ratified it. Switzerland won't continue to be a big exporter (of mercury) in the future." Already, Switzerland has reduced its mercury exports, from 110 tonnes per year, to just 30 tonnes in 2016.
Talks are continuing to lay down procedures for cleaning up mercury contaminated sites.
The Zero Campaign also pointed out that a reporting has to be put into place to keep track of mercury movements in the world. As they said "Many borders are porous and a significant portion of mercury trade is informal and illegal. good data on legal trade flows will enable actions to address illegal trade, all of which has a huge impact on artisanal and small scale gold mining, the largest source of mercury pollution globally."
Mercury is considered to be one of the most toxic chemicals in the world. Most mercury that is released into the environment is through industrial procedures mining, cement making and coal fired power stations. Forests are destroyed by the mercury given off from rocks in gold mining.
Mercury is also used in the production of pharmaceutical medicines, cosmetics, jewellery, paints and dental amalgams.
It is not surprising that Minamata Convention is being drawn up in Switzerland. Geneva is an important center for the control of dangerous chemicals, with secretariat offices for the following organisations: Rotterdam Convention on the prior informed consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and pesticides in International Trade, Stockholm Convention on Persistent organic pollutants, and Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.