International Cooperation

Minamata Convention on Mercury

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a multilateral environmental agreement that addresses specific human activities which are contributing to widespread mercury pollution. Implementation of this agreement will help reduce global mercury pollution over the coming decades.
 

History of the Minamata Convention

On November 6, 2013 the United States signed the Minamata Convention on MercuryExit In addition to signing, the United States deposited its Instrument of Acceptance to become a party to the Convention. EPA worked closely with the State Department and other federal agencies in the negotiation of this agreement.
 
The text of the Minamata Convention (PDF) Exit was adopted by delegates from over 140 countries on January 19, 2013, after three years of negotiation. The Convention opened for signature at the Diplomatic Conference in Kumamoto, Japan, on October 10, 2013. The Convention will enter into force after 50 countries have joined, which is expected in 2017. The first Conference of the Parties (COP1) Exitis scheduled for the week of September 25, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland, subject to entry into force of the Convention prior to this date.
 
The Minamata Convention is named after the Japanese city of Minamata, which experienced a severe, decades-long incidence of mercury poisoning after industrial wastewater from a chemical factory was discharged into Minamata Bay. The wastewater contained methylmercury, which bioaccumulated in fish and shellfish in the bay. Local people who consumed seafood from Minamata Bay became very sick, and many died or were left severely disabled.
 

Why is a global response needed?

Mercury pollution is a global problem that requires global action. It moves with air and water, transcends political borders, and can be transported thousands of miles in the atmosphere.
 
In the United States, we are significantly reducing our use and emissions of mercury, but domestic efforts alone are not sufficient to address the effects of global mercury pollution on the U.S. population. According to some estimates, global sources contribute about 70 percent of mercury deposited in the contiguous United States, although the percentage varies geographically. These global sources include natural sources, re-emitted mercury, and man-made emissions from other countries.
 
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an opportunity for the global community to address this mounting problem before it gets worse. Over the next decades, implementation of this international agreement will help reduce mercury pollution from the specific human activities responsible for the most significant mercury releases to the environment. 
 

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What will the Minamata Convention require?

Delegates assemble at plenary session of first intergovernmental negotiating committee meeting in Stockholm, Sweden in June 2010. Photo Credit: Carl Mazza.
The Minamata Convention, once in force, will require party nations to:
  • Reduce and where feasible eliminate the use and release of mercury from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM).
  • Control mercury air emissions from coal-fired power plants, coal-fired industrial boilers, certain non-ferrous metals production operations, waste incineration and cement production.
  • Phase-out or take measures to reduce mercury use in certain products such as batteries, switches, lights, cosmetics, pesticides and measuring devices, and create initiatives to reduce the use of mercury in dental amalgam.
  • Phase out or reduce the use of mercury in manufacturing processes such as chlor-alkali production, vinyl chloride monomer production, and acetaldehyde production.
  • In addition, the Convention addresses the supply and trade of mercury; safer storage and disposal, and strategies to address contaminated sites.
  • The Convention includes provisions for technical assistance, information exchange, public awareness, and research and monitoring. It also requires Parties to report on measures taken to implement certain provisions. The Convention will be periodically evaluated to assess its effectiveness at meeting its objective of protecting human health and the environment from mercury pollution.

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Additional Resources

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Contacts

For additional information on EPA's work with mercury, contact:
Rodges Ankrah
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-0280