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Story of the Month - June 2014

Mercury released to the environment have been reduced by an estimated 3,000 kg in a single year by training small-scale gold miners in Indonesia to use improved processing techniques. Ten sluices, ninety retorts and fifty water-box condensers were distributed to miners who had been trained in their use.

                       

In parallel with this training, a number of events were held to raise the awareness of miners and processors, health professionals, school teachers and NGO leaders of the danger of mercury use. Information materials were developed with local community leaders so that appropriate messages about mercury can be delivered to those at greatest risk of exposure.

The project, led by the Blacksmith Institute and Yayasan Tambuhak Sinta, in collaboration with UNEP and funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency, gathered data on mercury re-leases from the ASGM sector and brought together representatives from local and national Government, Local mining offices, research institutes and mining NGOs to develop a national strategic plan for the sector considering broader sustainable development objectives.

 

Story of the month - November 2012

Promoting Environmentally Sound Management of Mercury - A Life Cycle Approach

Led by the government of Japan, the Global Mercury Partnership area on waste management promotes the life-cycle approach in the environmentally sound management (ESM) of mercury waste. ESM covers production and manufacturing of mercury-added products; use of the products; collection, transportation, storage and disposal of waste.

Basic Concept of Waste Management

The Partnership area on waste management encourages and coordinates projects dealing with different waste streams, including waste products containing mercury, health care waste, industrial waste and mine tailings, and sites contaminated with mercury waste. The Partnership contributed to the development of the “Basel Convention Technical Guidelines on ESM of Wastes Consisting of Elemental Mercury and Wastes Containing and Contaminated with Mercury” which describe principles of waste management at each stage of the life cycle.

 

 

In addition, the Partnership is currently developing the “Good Practices for the Management of Mercury Release from Waste” document to provide practical   information on how to   implement the principles of the Basel Technical Guidelines.

Other examples of projects under the   Partnership include “The Quantification and Characterization of Discarded Batteries in Yaoundé, Cameroon” as well as “The   Mercury Waste Management project” in Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Pakistan, Philippines, and Chile. These projects provide valuable lessons learned in the life cycle management of mercury waste.

A List of Resource Persons that could provide technical advice on the various stages of waste management and provide institutional expertise in legal and social aspects has been developed in the Partnership and is available for those planning projects.

News in Brief:

The east Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda) Dental Amalgam Phase down Project will be launched at an inception workshop in Nairobi, Kenya on 18-19 December 2012.

The second Global Forum on reducing mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining is planned to be held in March 2013 in Cuzco, Peru.


Story of the month - October 2012

Effective reduction of mercury emissions from Artisanal and Small scale Gold Mining (ASGM) in Francophone Africa – A multi-stakeholder approach

Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining(ASGM) releases more mercury to the environment than any other sector. Responding to the need for immediate action, the Global Mercury Partnership is supporting Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal in reducing mercury emissions from this sector.

The project represents a ground-breaking collaboration among multiple donors: Under the leadership of UNIDO, it receives financial support from the Global Environment Facility, the Fonds Francais pour l’Environnement Mondial, the Strategic   Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), the European Commission, the U.S., and the governments of the three participating countries.

 

   

   Source: Ronald de Hommel

 

The project addresses the different dimensions of this complicated sector. It will strengthen the capacity of local and national stakeholders by means of a number of    activities:

  • Providing training programmes on the use of low-mercury / mercury-free technology 
  • Exploring potential for fair trade certification 
  • Developing and implementing national action plans for the sound management of mercury 
  • Strengthening health education 
  • Documenting and sharing lessons learned

 

Pilot projects will be implemented in sites in each country. These will encourage the use of better practices to reduce mercury use, emissions, and exposure by a target of 50%, thus improving the health and environment of miners and their communities.

Making this project a success requires the help of a diverse set of experts. The activities are therefore being implemented by internationally recognized organizations specialized in the sector, including the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC), Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), Human Rights Watch and the Green Cross. UNEP and NRDC are also playing a supportive role.

This collaborative partnership serves as a model for other mercury projects under development, with international and national experts working in close cooperation to provide technical, and   educational guidance as well as capacity building to both governments and to miners and mining communities.

 

 

Story of the month - September 2012

UNEP Global Mercury Partnership launches partnership area on mercury releases from the cement industry

 It is estimated that the cement industry produces about 10% of the world’s anthropogenic mercury emissions.  The new partnership area will help enhance our understanding and eventual reduction of the emissions of mercury from the cement industry.

The Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI), a group formed under the auspices of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), is co-chairing the  new partnership area to reduce global emissions of mercury from the cement industry.  The Group has drafted a business plan that outlines cost-effective approaches (Link to the Draft Business Plan) that the Partnership area will undertake in order to achieve reduction in mercury emissions.

The business plan addresses issues such as the establishment of global mercury inventories, development of techniques to reduce mercury emissions into the environment, and outreach efforts to raise awareness within the industry.

 

   

 

Next Steps:

The Partnership is currently soliciting members to join and participate in various projects including demonstration projects to prove the feasibility of abatement techniques, such as the applicability of dust shuttling, to a wide range of process configurations, advanced abatement techniques and practical guides for control of raw materials and fuels which can lead to emissions.

In the coming weeks the Partnership plans to hold a conference call in anticipation of its first formal meeting. Entities interested in joining the partnership should contact UNEP. For details please see www.unep.org

 

Story of the month - August 2012

Converting to a Cost-Effective Mercury Free Technology in the Chlor-Alkali Industry

The Chlor-Alkali Partnership Area has issued a report entitled Conversion from Mercury Technology in the Chlor-Alkali Industry. This report provides study of the costs and benefits associated with conversion.

The mercury-cell process is one of three manufacturing processes used to produce chlorine and caustic soda.  Use of this process is declining (see diagram), but still represents around 20% of total global chlor-alkali production and remains a significant user and source of mercury release to the environment. 

Many chlor-alkali production facilities are converting to membrane-cell technology that does not use mercury. This progressive conversion is driven principally by the much greater energy efficiency and economies of scale available with the membrane-cell technology.

 

The costs and benefits of conversion vary according to local economic, financial, technical and regulatory conditions.

The study uses a variety of scenarios to examine the costs and benefits of conversion and sets out case studies of conversion from the U.S. and India. The study concludes that while the initial investment for conversion may be high, the payback period is in the range of 10 to 20 years depending on local conditions.

Facilities continuing to use mercury-cell technology need to reduce releases of mercury by using environmentally sound management techniques. The World Chlorine Council (WCC) has made its guidelines on mercury management available to the Global Mercury Partnership for the benefit of all remaining mercury-cell facilities.

 

Story of the Month - July 2012

Exploring and Sharing Environmentally Sound Solutions for Mercury Storage

In the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region, the supply of mercury is likely to exceed the demand in 2017, which will result in a large and growing amount of excess mercury in the region.

In order to find solutions to this critical issue, a workshop on mercury management in the LAC region was held in Brasilia, Brazil from 21 to 22 May 2012. During the workshop, the representatives of the gold mining industry indicated that the industry has the adequate know-how for mercury management and some companies have environmentally sound strategies in place. Given the available technologies, the industry could assume the costs to implement the mercury management measures.

Stabilization and Encapsulation Technique

Storage of Mercury in an Aboveground Warehouse

 

 

This was reaffirmed by the representative of the chlor-alkali sector. Many facilities already have transition plans or are in the process of converting to mercury-free technologies. The remaining mercury will be stored or disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.

The workshop further concluded that:

  • Stabilization and encapsulation constitute cost-effective technologies for the environmentally sound management of metallic mercury (see diagram). The technologies sifgnificantly lower waste management costs by facilitating the search for adequate storage.
  • Specific, clear and applicable legislation, coupled with effective enforcement mechanisms, is crucial. Stakeholders emphasized the need for harmonized regulation in order to level the placing field.

 

Story of the Month - June 2012

Alternatives Exist: Reducing Mercury Use in Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM)

Artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM) is an important development opportunity which can contribute directly to poverty alleviation and regional development.

However, there are  a number of social and environmental problems prevalent in the sector: Mercury is used to extract gold and is considered to be cheap, efficient and works in most conditions. For this reason ASGM is the largest demand sector for mercury in the world.

 The good news: there are feasible alternatives available. United Nations Environment Programme in collaboration with Artisanal Gold council and other partners from the Global Mercury Partnership have developed  a document ‘Reducing mercury use in artisanal and small scale gold mining: a practical guide.’

 

The document has been produced to educate policy makers, miners, and civil society about available technologies and approaches for reducing, and ultimately eliminating, mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM). It is rich in graphics with the aim of being a simple educational and planning tool for improving practices in ASGM and to provide some explanation of the technical fundamentals that underpin and encourage formalization. It is also hoped that the public will find parts of the document an accessible and informative resource with which to learn more about the often misunderstood ASGM sector.

 

Story of the Month - May 2012 

Establishing Cost-Effective Strategies to Reduce Mercury Emissions from Coal Power Plants with the POG and iPOGTM

Coal combustion represents the largest anthropogenic source of mercury emissions to the atmosphere. As coal burning for power generation forms the largest part of total coal combustion, immediate action is needed in this sector.

The UNEP Process Optimization Guidance (POG) help engineers, plant managers and policy makers to determine cost-effective strategies to reduce mercury emissions in individual coal fired power plants. It was developed by the Mercury Releases from Coal Partnership Area led by the International Energy Agency Clean Coal Centre, with the help of Chinese, Russian and South-African experts.

 

 

An interactive version of the POG is now available. This iPOGTM, a user-friendly free computer program, uses basic technical data on coal-type and plant characteristics to estimate the mercury emissions likely to be emitted by coal-fired power plants. It allows the user to "play" with options, such as coal blends and control technologies, to compare the effectiveness of different options for mercury control.

"The iPOG has allowed us as a regulator to understand the complex workings of a coal fired power station when it comes to mercury emission." (Greg Scott, DEAT, Government of South Africa)

The POG and iPOG™1 were used in developing proposals for demonstrations of mercury reduction at power plants in Russia, South Africa and India as a part of the European Commission-funded UNEP project "Reducing mercury emissions from Coal Combustion in the Energy Sector".

The POG document is available in English, Russian and Spanish. The iPOG is currently available in English only.

Story of the Month - April 2012

Understanding of Mercury Emission Sources, Fate and Transport: The Challenge of the Global Mercury Observation System (GMOS)

An improved understanding of mercury dispersion in the environment is important to support policy-makers in decision-making.  The Global Mercury Observation System (GMOS) (www.gmos.eu) is a first attempt to conduct worldwide measurements of mercury from both natural and anthropogenic sources.

The project is being implemented by a consortium led by the Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research of the National Research Council of Italy (CNR-IIA, www.iia.cnr.it) and is a major contribution to UNEP’s Mercury Air Transport and Fate Research Partnership Area.  The project is funded by the European Union.

 

   

GMOS is taking mercury measurements from ground-based monitoring stations, from ships and from aircraft in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. These efforts will result in an integrated global database that provides information on mercury concentrations and fluxes in and between the atmosphere as well as marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems.  The database is expected to be available towards the end of the project in 2015. In addition, emissions forecasts for 2030 are currently under development based on 2005 global mercury emissions data from UNEP and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme .

Overall, GMOS will provide an improved world-wide overview of mercury distribution in the environment and refined atmospheric mercury transport models predicting transport and fluxes of mercury. By linking these models to emission source data, policy-makers will be able to focus on key issues and implement cost-effective actions.

 

Story of the Month - March 2012

Understanding the Largest Demand Sector for Mercury: Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM)

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is a complex global development issue that presents challenges and opportunities in many countries. Estimates put mercury use in ASGM at approximately 1400 tonne/year in 2011, making it the largest mercury demand sector globally. Virtually all of the mercury used is released to the environment.

Due to the often informal and sometimes illegal status of the sector in many countries, lack of reliable data is considered to be one of the biggest challenges in addressing the issues of the sector.

The Mercury Watch Database (www.mercurywatch.org) is a project of the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC) and is supported by the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership. The project is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information needs about mercury use and emissions around the world in ASGM.

 

   
The website is the only global data-base and includes up to date current inventory information including estimated number of miners, mercury use and ASGM gold produced  in a country. Data is obtained through National inventory data (if available) and inter alia supplemented by academic research, field visits etc.

Mercury use and release inventories play an important role in identifying priorities in future work and tracking progress. The data will also help inform the governments in developing strategic actions for reducing, and where feasible, eliminating mercury use in ASGM.

 

Story of the Month - February 2012

Phasing-out Mercury Containing Medical-Measuring Devices: Developing Countries Prove that Change is Possible 

Today, a large number of hospitals in developing countries have banned mercury-containing medical devices such as fever thermometers and blood pressure devices, proving that the shift to mercury-free products is feasible.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Health-Care-Without-Harm (HCWH) are contributing to the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership through the Global Mercury Free Health Care Initiative.  This Initiative helps to design and implement phase-out policies in hospitals.  Part of the strategy is to build capacity in large cities for phase-out action.  To date, phase-out actions have been undertaken in Mexico City, Dakar, Rio de Janeiro and Beijing, amongst others.

 

Leadership in Hg-Phase-out

In 2010 the Philippines was the first developing country to ban mercury devices in all of its hospitals. Argentina and India initiated similar national policies.

Affordable and Accurate Substitutes Exist

Several studies show that accurate mercury-free instruments are available. Their usage saves money compared to mercury-devices when their complete life-cycle costs are considered. The Economics of Conversion to Mercury-Free Products study (UNEP, 2010) shows that the transition cost for manufacturers is also minimal. Additional research is underway among Chinese manufacturers and will be released in April 2012.

A mercury-free solar-powered blood-pressure measuring device that requires minimal  training to be used is now available. It is one example of an innovative alternative to mercury devices  that is adaptable for healthcare needs even  when limited resources are available.

Story of the Month - January 2012

Kyrgyz Republic Primary Mercury Mine Project attracts new funds

The Kyrgyz Republic operates, in the town of Khairdarken, the last primary mercury mine known to export mercury to the global market-place, representing approximately 10% of the global mercury market. A project to support the Kyrgyz Republic transition away from mercury mining has been on-going since 2008 with project support from UNEP, UNDP, UNITAR and ZOI Environment Network.

 

 

The Government of Norway granted 850,000 US$ of new funding in November 2011 to the project. With these funds as the core source of co-finance, UNEP is supporting the Kyrgyz Republic in the preparation of a medium size proposal to the Global Environment Facility (GEF).  
The main contributors to the project so far have included the United States of America, Norway and Switzerland.  
Those interested in contributing to the project should contact mercury@unep.org.  Overall efforts focus on the following pillars:

I.    Reduction of most immediate threats posed by the mine site to the environment and people;  
II.    Promotion of investment in other economic development activities in the region;
III.    Promotion of local alternative employment in the region.

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