The First Conference of the Parties (COP1) to the Minamata Convention on Mercury will take place in the week of 25 September 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has disclosed.
The disclosure is coming even as Costa Rica last week became the 36th Future Party to the Minamata Convention. On 19 January 2017, the Government of Costa Rica deposited their instrument of accession to that effect.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty aimed at protecting human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury, was agreed at the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) in Geneva, Switzerland on Saturday, 19 January 2013 – some four years ago.
Nigeria is one of the 128 signatories to the global treaty, but she is yet to ratify it. Ratification by Nigeria automatically makes her a Party to the Convention with the duty to domesticate its content.
A minimum of 50 nations are required to ratify the Minamata Convention to make it legally binding.
Charles Brown, president of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry (WAMFD), said that the treaty’s emergence entailed a process of international meetings or INCs that held in 2010 – Stockholm, Sweden; 2011 – Chiba, Japan; 2011 – Nairobi, Kenya; 2012 – Punta del Este, Uruguay; 2013 – Geneva, Switzerland; 2014 – Bangkok, Thailand; and 2015 – Jordan. In 2013, a Diplomatic Conference held in Kumamoto, Japan.
While acknowledging the role of the Africa region towards making the Convention a reality, Brown opined that ratifying the treaty is a “great” opportunity for Nigeria to lead, even though several other African nations are already Parties to the Convention.
Leslie Adogame, executive director of SRADev Nigeria, said: “Nigeria has signed the treaty. But, by signing, it merely shows that you are part of the process and you stand by it. Ratification however means that you are now a Party and ready to domesticate it by, for example, making local legislations.”
According to him, Nigeria became a signatory to the Convention on 10 October, 2013. “The Convention highlights actions to reduce mercury emissions to the air from identified sources, reduce the use of mercury in products and industrial processes, and to address mercury supply and trade. In addition, it contains provisions to address the severe and growing problem of mercury use in artisanal gold mining,” he added.
Adogame pointed out that the signing of the Convention would enable Nigeria to:
- Develop a National Implementation Strategy (NIS)/Action Plan to holistically address challenges relating to the reduction and elimination of Mercury;
- Undertake a comprehensive inventory as a basis to develop and implement a more robust Mercury preventive programme which will include the identification and location, contaminated sites and extent of contamination, storage, handling and disposal to ensure that mercury related activities do not result in further damage to health and the environment;
- Enhance national capacities with respect to human resources development and institutional strengthening, towards addressing concerns about the long-term effects of Mercury on both human health and the environment and also to ensure the effective domestication of the instrument that will be implementable at national level;
- Sensitise the populace and policy makers on the hazards of mercury;
- Develop and implement Mercury Release Minimisation Projects; and,
- Control mercury supply and trade.
Nations that have ratified the Convention include: Antigua and Barbuda, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Chad, China, Costa Rica, Djibouti, Ecuador, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Gayana, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali and Mauritania.
Others are Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Samoa, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay and Zambia.
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.