Brussels -- The European Commission has launched an on-line 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 1st 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 chlor-alkali processes and the plastics industry for example, and 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. However, while the Minamata Convention largely contains measures similar to or identical to existing EU legislation, certain additional measures will be needed. And certain elements of EU legislation need to be amended accordingly. In particular, gaps have been identified in 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)
The consultation provides interested citizens, public authorities, businesses and NGOs with a concise and clear understanding of the elements above and asks them for their views. Ideas and comments are welcome on the ratification and subsequent EU implementation of the Convention, restrictions and bans, approval processes, and on dental amalgam, for instance. These inputs will be used in the preparation of a ratification package by the Commission services.
The consultation is online until 14 November 2014.