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14.12.2017

Germany now a Contracting Party to Minamata Convention on Mercury

On December 14th Germany officially became a Contracting Party to the Minamata Convention.

More protection against highly toxic heavy metal

Today Germany officially became a Contracting Party to the Minamata Convention. The Convention’s main objective is the protection of human health and the environment against anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. Due to its volatility, the highly toxic heavy metal mercury is capable of spreading over long distances - in particular through air and water.

The international convention, which entered into force in August 2017, is the first to lay down a strategy to significantly reduce mercury, a highly toxic heavy metal. The provisions and measures set out in the Minamata Convention are aimed at significantly lowering mercury levels in the environment and food chain in the long term. Germany has been strongly committed to making the Minamata Convention a reality.

The Convention affects the entire life cycle of mercury, from primary mercury mining and artisanal and small-scale gold mining through to waste disposal. For instance, it specifically bans the opening of new mercury mines. Signatory states must ensure that no new mercury mines are operated in their countries and that existing mines are decommissioned 15 years after the Convention’s entry into force at the latest. The Convention also limits the use of mercury in industrial processes. The use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining will also be banned in the medium term and the management and storage of mercury waste will be regulated.

Even very small amounts of mercury can damage the nervous, respiratory and digestive systems. Pregnant women, infants and children are particularly at risk. In Germany the level of mercury concentrations is generally so low that human health is not at risk.

Following approval of the Convention text by the Bundestag and the Bundesrat in early summer 2017, Germany deposited its instrument of ratification on 15 September 2017 at the United Nations in New York meaning that as of today, 90 days after ratification, Germany is officially a Contracting Party to the Convention.

The EU regulation on mercury due to enter into force on 1 January 2018 will serve as the basis for implementing the Convention in Germany.

14.12.2017 | Pressreport No. 381/17 | International Environmental Policy