Treaty Does Not Stop Illicit Mercury Trade in South America

The lure of gold: Peruvians search for gold and many use mercury for processing, and Peruvian law enforcement authorities crack down on illegal mining

Mercury is among the top 10 chemical hazards listed by the World Health Organization. The Minamata Convention on Mercury, a treaty adopted in 2013 and opened for signatures, aims to reduce global mercury pollution and protect global health. “The convention prohibits the opening of new mercury mines, requires existing mines to close within 15 years, and encourages nations to reduce or eliminate mercury use in artisanal gold mining,” explains David Gonzalez, a PhD student in environment and resources at Stanford University and a 2015-2016 Yale Fox International Fellow. Spain and the United States were once leading mercury exporters, until the European Union banned exports in 2010 and the United States followed suit. After miners developed alternatives for extracting precious metals and mercury prices plummeted, Mexico and Indonesia became top exporters. Peru stopped mercury imports, too, but miners in rural communities rely on emerging black markets. Mercury mining and pollution have shifted to regions with few controls, and Gonzalez concludes that reveals a challenge for enforcing the Minamata Convention. – YaleGlobal