October 18th, 2013
The UN Environment Program organized an international conference in Kumamoto, Japan in which one thousand delegates from 139 countries adopted a treaty on the use and trade of mercury on October 10. Mongolia joined the Minamata Convention on Mercury at the conference and became the 92nd nation to join the treaty.
Minamata Convention aims to curb health and environmental damages caused by mercury. As a result of the convention, discharge of mercury into environment, sub-standard storage and disposal of mercury, and the use of mercury in gold mining are expected to decrease.
All member nations were given the duty to ban the manufacture, import and export of batteries, switches, fluorescent glass lamps, cosmetics products, pesticides, metric equipment and tools with containing mercury and replace them with products free of mercury.
Mongolia has been using mercury since 1990 for gold mining and usage increased after 2000, as independent gold miners began using mercury, even in households, without consideration for environmental issues. Though joining the effort quite late, the Mongolian government has now taken a significant step to combat mercury usage nationwide. The government banned mercury import and usage in 2007 and confiscated 247 mills using mercury. The first inspection by experts showed that mercury usage had spread, and the impact on human and environmental health had reached hazardous levels in Mongolia. The treaty will help halt the spread of mercury. However, confiscating mills and banning imports cannot alone eradicate the usage of mercury.
The biggest sources of mercury contamination in Mongolia are gold mining and power plants that use coal. Thus, member nations will supervise mercury production and emission from power plants, factory boilers, waste incineration furnaces and cement furnaces.