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The Journey Toward’s Zimbabwe’s Ratification of the Minamata Convention

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The Journey Toward’s Zimbabwe’s Ratification of the Minamata Convention

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The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty which aims to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. Mercury is a highly toxic chemical which poses a threat to human health and the environment. It persists in the environment, bio accumulates in organisms, and undergoes long-range atmospheric transport. It has severe human health impacts which include damaging the central nervous system as well as the kidneys, lungs, immune system, thyroid, eyes, gums and skin. Damage caused to the brain cannot be reversed.

The ability of mercury to undergo long range (and therefore transboundary) transport makes it a chemical of global concern, as no country can manage and control it alone. Due to the need for international cooperation in effectively managing the issue of mercury, an international treaty for addressing mercury, called the Minamata Convention on Mercury, was developed. The Convention was adopted and opened for signature on the 10th of October 2013, at a Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Kumamoto, Japan. It entered into force on 16 August 2017, 90 days after ratification by the 50th country. To date, the Convention has 128 signatories and 137 parties.

The Government of Zimbabwe signed the Convention on 11 October 2013. In order to facilitate ratification and early implementation of the Convention, the Government embarked on the Mercury Initial Assessment project in August 2016.The MIA involved conducting inventories and assessments of mercury and was undertaken as a way of identifying the baseline situation pertaining to mercury management in Zimbabwe.

The inventory revealed that gold processing with mercury amalgamation especially in the Artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM) sector was the largest channel through which mercury was released into the environment. Other sources of mercury release include gold production, medical waste, light sources with mercury, electrical switches and relays with mercury, coal combustion in power plants and cement production, among others.

The MIA was followed by the development of the National Action Plan (NAP) in 2019, in fulfilment of the obligations to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, with the aim of coming up with strategies to reduce and, where feasible, eliminate the use of mercury in the ASGM sector. The specific objectives of the NAP include adoption of cleaner and mercury free gold production technologies, and legal reforms to support reduction and eventual elimination of mercury use in the ASGM sector. 

On the 8th of August 2021, Zimbabwe ratified the Minamata Convention becoming the 125th signatory. The ratification shows Zimbabwe’s commitment towards domesticating the provisions of the convention.

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