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, signed in October 2013, 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.
Readers will recall that Mercury is a highly toxic element used in industry, in particular the chlor-alkali processes and the plastics industry, and in products such as thermometers, dental amalgam, batteries and light bulbs. Additionally, it can be released unintentionally through the burning of fossil fuels. Around half of the mercury currently released into the atmosphere comes from human activity.
The EU and its Member States already have 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.
As the next step, the EU intends to become a party to the Treaty as many of the measures in the Minamata Convention are similar to or identical to existing EU legislation. However, certain additional measures will be needed with amendments required to existing EU legislation.
The additional measures are:
- 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)
As part of the open dialogue, the consultation provides an opportunity for interested citizens, public authorities, businesses and NGOs to provide feedback and comments on the ratification and subsequent EU implementation of the Convention, restrictions and bans, approval processes, and on, for example, dental amalgam. The feedback will provide a valuable opportunity to influence the preparation of a ratification package by the Commission services ahead of the consultation deadline: 14 November 2014.