EPA Leadership in the Global Mercury Partnership
The Global Mercury Partnership Exit(Partnership) is a voluntary multi-stakeholder partnership initiated in 2005 to take immediate actions to protect human health and the environment from the releases of mercury and its compounds to the environment.
EPA leads U.S. government participation in the Partnership by serving as lead for the Chlor Alkali and Product Partnership Areas, and by co-chairing the Partnership Advisory Group (PAG), Exit which provides advice and guidance to the Global Mercury Partnership to encourage the work of the partnership areas.
Seventh meeting of the Partnership Advisory Group of the Global Mercury Partnership
On March 8, 2016, UNEP convened the seventh meeting of the Partnership Advisory Group of the Global Mercury Partnership (PAG7) Exit at the Dead Sea, Jordan. PAG7 was convened back-to-back with the seventh session of the intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC7) for the Minamata Convention.
At the meeting, PAG members agreed to strengthen collaboration, communication and outreach. Participants at the meeting drafted materials to assist countries in developing national action plans to address artisanal and small-scale gold mining, and reviewed business plans to address areas such as coal combustion, mercury-added products, waste management, chlor-alkali plants and cement production. The meeting also reaffirmed the partners' commitment to assist in similar ways in other areas, such as mercury interim storage and monitoring.
About the Global Mercury Partnership
The United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Mercury Partnership was initiated in 2005 to take immediate actions to protect human health and the environment from the release of mercury and its compounds to the environment by minimizing and where feasible, ultimately eliminating global anthropogenic mercury releases to air water and land.
Who participates in the Global Mercury Partnership?
The Global Mercury Partnership is a voluntary partnership of over 140 stakeholders including governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, private sector entities, and others. Partners agree to work together in a systematic way to achieve the goals of the Global Mercury Partnership, including supporting the ratification and implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
How does the Global Mercury Partnership work?
The Partnership has focused its efforts in eight priority Partnership Areas, which are identified in the Overarching Framework (PDF, 20 pp, 1 M). In addition, the Partnership Advisory Group provides encouragement to the Partnership Areas, supports coordination between Partnership Areas, and provides information about the activities of the Partnership Areas to a broader audience.
Partnership Areas of the Global Mercury Partnership
The Partnership has focused its efforts in the following areas:
- Reducing Mercury in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining Exit
- Mercury Control from Coal Combustion Exit
- Mercury Reduction in Chlor-alkali Exit
- Mercury Reduction in Products Exit
- Mercury Air Transport and Fate Research Exit
- Mercury Waste Management Exit
- Mercury Supply and Storage Exit
- Mercury Releases from Cement Industry Exit
Each of the Partnership Areas develops and implements a business plan that identifies priority activities for the partnership areas; tracks progress in implementing these activities; identifies opportunities and challenges; discusses resource needs and how they will be mobilized; and describes how the performance will be evaluated and reported.
EPA's Role in the Global Mercury Partnership
Leadership in the Global Mercury Partnership
EPA takes an active role in the Partnership as the majority of mercury deposited in the United States is from global sources, including a combination of natural sources; historically deposited mercury that is re-emitted to the atmosphere; and man-made emissions from a variety of sources, such as coal fired power plants, industrial processes, production of gold and other metals, and artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
EPA leads global work providing technical assistance and information exchange on non-mercury technologies, best practices, and management of surplus mercury.
To reduce airborne mercury emissions from Gold Shops, EPA and the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) partnered to design a low cost, easily constructible technology called the Gold Shop Mercury Capture System (MCS). The MCS was piloted and tested in Amazonian gold producing regions in Brazil and Peru. EPA and ANL are studying experiences with the systems that have been deployed to understand how to encourage their adoption in other communities.
EPA and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) jointly lead the Chlor-alkali Sector Partnership Area. Mercury-cell chlor-alkali production remains a significant use of mercury globally and can be a significant source of mercury releases to the environment. The mercury-cell process is one of three manufacturing processes used by the chlor-alkali sector to produce chlorine and caustic soda.
The primary goal of this partnership area is the effective phasing out of the use of mercury by 2025, as identified in the Minamata Convention. While many of the remaining facilities within the European Union are expected to phase out of the mercury-cell process in 2017, over 50 facilities will still be operational globally at that time. The partnership will work in coordination with UNIDO, UNEP, the World Chlorine Council and other partners to expand efforts to identify and reach out to these facilities and operators in the Chlor-Alkali sector that may benefit from assistance with phasing efforts.
EPA also leads the Mercury-Containing Products Partnership Area. The goal of this partnership area is to phase out and eventually eliminate mercury in products and to eliminate releases during manufacturing and other industrial processes via environmentally sound production, transportation, storage and disposal procedures.
Reducing Mercury Emissions from Industrial Processes
EPA has taken a role in projects to reduce the use and release of mercury in several industrial sectors:
- EPA has assisted Russian chlorine producers in upgrading plant processes and equipment to reduce releases by almost 1 metric ton per year.
- EPA helped the Chlor-Alkali Partnership create a global inventory of mercury-cell chlor-alkali facilities. Exit
- In collaboration with various Russian institutes, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the Swedish Environmental Institute, EPA concluded a multi-year program to demonstrate controlling mercury emissions using activated carbon injection technologies (both standard and brominated) at a Russian coal-fired power plant.
- View the scientific report: Mercury Emissions Capture Efficiency with Activated Carbon Injection at a Russian Coal-Fired Thermal Power Plant.
- Mercury is also emitted in the process of zinc smelting. To address this, EPA helped develop a more robust mercury emission inventory in China, in order to understand how much mercury is coming from the zinc sector. EPA also supported studies on mercury emissions from other nonferrous metals production.
Addressing Mercury Use in Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining
EPA has led efforts to reduce mercury releases and human exposure in artisanal and small scale gold mining, which is the largest global source of mercury releases to the environment.
In Senegal, EPA trained miners on the health impacts of mercury, and helped miners reduce risk with practices such as the use of locally-made, hand-held “retorts,” which are small devices that capture mercury vapor.
Addressing Products and Markets Containing Mercury
To address products containing mercury, EPA supported projects to phase out mercury fever thermometers and blood pressure devises in Brazil and South Africa, and to reduce demand for mercury containing products in Bangladesh.
To reduce the supply of mercury in the global market, EPA (working in partnership with UNEP, UNITAR and the Government of Switzerland) assisted the nation of Kyrgyzstan to develop a plan to phase out primary mercury production in the town of Khairdarken in the nation of Kyrgyzstan.
For additional information on EPA's work with the Global Mercury Partnership, contact:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460