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Minister Bruton Welcomes the Ratification of the UN Minamata Convention on Mercury

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton T.D. today (Tuesday the 19th of March 2019) welcomed Ireland's ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

 

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty that entered into force on August 16, 2017. By ratifying the Minamata Convention, Ireland commits to protecting human health and the environment by putting in place measures for the phase down and phase out of mercury, reducing mercury releases into the environment and for the safe disposal of mercury waste.

 

Mercury is a dangerous pollutant, capable of spreading over long distances - in particular through air and water. Mercury released to the environment can enter the food chain where it accumulates mainly in fish. Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause harm to the brain, lungs, kidneys and immune system.

 

Ireland has deposited its instrument of ratification to the Minamata Convention on Mercury with the Secretary-General of the United Nations in New York. This completes Ireland's part of the ratification process.

 

In completing the ratification process for Minamata, Minister Bruton noted "Releases of mercury to the environment represents a significant issue globally and particularly with respect to the developing world. While not a significant issue for us here in Ireland it is nonetheless hugely important that we play our part and Ireland's ratification of the Minamata Convention shows our clear support for this important global initiative. 

 

The Minister also paid tribute to the role played by the EU in the development of the Minamata Convention.  "The EU has been a strong global force in this area and the Minamata Convention was strongly influenced by the EU's own ambitious policies on mercury.  This bodes well for other global environmental initiatives which are also important priorities for us here in Ireland. "

 

Note for editors

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is named after Minamata, Japan, the location of significant industrial releases of mercury in the 1950's which caused catastrophic mercury pollution and severe and lasting health problems called Minamata disease.  

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty that entered into force on August 16, 2017. The Convention draws attention to a global and ubiquitous metal that, while naturally occurring, has broad uses in everyday objects and is released to the atmosphere, soil and water from a variety of sources. Controlling the anthropogenic releases of mercury throughout its lifecycle has been a key factor in shaping the obligations under the Convention.

Major highlights of the Minamata Convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase out and phase down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and the regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining. The Convention also addresses interim storage of mercury and its disposal once it becomes waste, sites contaminated by mercury as well as health issues.

Ireland's use of mercury is small and has reduced over the past decade with the development of a comprehensive body of EU and national legislation covering all aspects of the mercury lifecycle, including measures on trade, products containing mercury, mercury pollution and waste disposal. 

 T​​here are currently 128 signatories to the Convention and 102 ratifications including the EU and 22 of its Member States. ​


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