MAC: Mines and Communities

Getting rid of mercury (but not yet)

Published by MAC on 2006-11-18

Getting rid of mercury (but not yet)

18th November 2006

Securing a total ban on the global trade in mercury has been an objective of many NGOs (and advocates of mining) for decades. Methyl mercury poisoning from use of the toxic heavy metal in gold amalgamation, has long been recognised as having appalling consequences for small scale miners in Amazonia, and these effects are now being felt elsewhere (especially in Africa). But this is by no means the whole story. According to Greenpeace, the European Union is the world's biggest trader in mercury and exports it to many developing countries, including India and Brazil

Although Spain finally closed down its mercury mines in 2002, it has still been selling off vast stock piles. And coal-fired power plants continue to belch out the deadly metal, since it's often contained in coal.

Twenty two US states are now introducing their own emissions standards which (not surprisingly) are higher than those set by the Bush regime. The country's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also announced that it may sell surplus mercury stockpiles on the international market - a move condemned by some environmentalists, who claim that it's thereby bound to end up in "poorly regulated industries in developing countries, which release it into the atmosphere."

Last week the EU has voted to ban the use of mercury in thermometers - but not barometers, on grounds which, at first sight, seem puzzling, in not spurious.

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