Human Rights Council: Mercury, small-scale gold mining and human rights

22 Sep 2022

The Executive Secretary speaks at the 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council on how the issue of artisanal and small-scale gold mining is “at the very heart of the existence of the Convention”.

Orellana and Stankiewicz

For the first time since the entry into force of the Minamata Convention, the Executive Secretary of the Convention delivered a statement at the Human Rights Council session, which takes place in Geneva from 2 September to 7 October 2022. The statement was given on 20 September during an interactive dialogue following the presentation by the UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights Marcos Orellana of his thematic report.

The report examines human rights violations and environmental injustices that result from mercury use in small-scale gold mining and puts forward recommendations to countries to address them.

In her statement, Executive Secretary Monika Stankiewicz welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s initiative to develop the thematic report and highlighted the Minamata Convention work. The Convention requires its parties to reduce and, where feasible, eliminate the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, through national action plans.

“I applaud the 20 countries who have completed and submitted their national action plans, and an additional 27 countries who are working on their plans. While I know that this represents a significant portion of the known global use of mercury in this sector, I also look forward to seeing more”, said Stankiewicz. “National action plans are not meant to sit on a shelf: parties are required to implement them and must provide periodic reviews of their implementation to the Conference of the Parties.”

This first set of plans include mercury reduction targets which represent a decrease from over 350 tons per year to just over 100 tons by the end of this decade. The ongoing PlanetGOLD programme funded by the Convention`s financial mechanism, Global Environment Facility, is working with as many as 23 parties to bring artisanal and small-scale gold mining communities to mercury-free approaches.

Over 40 countries contributed to the debate on the topic at the Human Rights Council, demonstrating a great interest by both parties and non-parties yet to implement the Minamata Convention.

The Executive Secretary of the Convention also participated in a side event to the 51st Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC51) organized by the Special Rapporteur on 21 September. This event provided an opportunity to further discuss the conclusions and recommendations of the report on mercury, small-scale mining and human rights by Marcos Orellana, the measures and initiatives adopted by countries to address the negative impact caused by mercury, and the way mercury pollution impacts on human rights and vulnerable populations, among other topics.

The full statement by the Executive Secretary at HRC51 can be read here.

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