Waiting for Indonesia’s Commitment to Host the Minamata Convention

The Minamata Convention on Mercury will be held in Jakarta on 1-5 November 2021, and in Bali on 21-25 March 2022. This convention aims to develop a work program to limit, control, and eliminate the use of mercury which is harmful to the environment and human life.

The still rampant illegal trade in mercury in manufacturing, health, small-scale gold mining, and energy, is the focus of discussion in this convention, as an effort to protect human health and environmental safety.

This image taken in Kereng Pengi, Pontianak in West Kalimantan shows an illegal gold mining site where miners use mercury to pollute rivers and soil causing environmental damage.  (Photo: AFP/Chaideer Mahyuddin)

This image, taken in Kereng Pengi, Pontianak in West Kalimantan, shows an illegal gold mining site where miners use mercury to pollute rivers and soil causing environmental damage. (Photo: AFP/Chaideer Mahyuddin)

Muhsin Syihab, Expert Staff to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Inter-Agency Relations and Head of the Delegation of the Republic of Indonesia for the 2021 Minamata Convention, said the illegal trade in mercury poses a threat to health, especially for children and women.

The Minamata incident in Japan in around 1950, resulted in health effects such as disability and death caused by uncontrolled mercury waste pollution. Muhsin said the 2021 Minamata Convention would be a means for Indonesia to initiate regulation of the illegal trade in mercury, thereby raising global awareness about the dangers of mercury.

A stone statue at a memorial to the victims of Minamata disease is seen in Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, September 12, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

A stone statue at a memorial to the victims of Minamata disease is seen in Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, September 12, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

“We want to create a legacy, that at COP4 Minamata, Indonesia has initiated a declaration related to law enforcement trade of mercury, or combating the illegal trade in mercury, and it is hoped that this will encourage awareness, public awareness to always maintain and also avoid the use of mercury, “he explained.

The Bali Declaration in 2022, said Muhsin, is a form of the Indonesian government’s commitment to support the reduction and elimination of the use of mercury, which in the end, with the help of technology, can find a better alternative than the use of mercury.

“We ratified the Minamata convention in 2017 with Law No. 11 of 2017. And after the ratification, I think my friends at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry have followed up quickly by compiling a National Action Plan, which was revealed by Presidential Decree No. 21 of 2019, “added Mohsin.

Congenital Minamata disease patient Shinobu Sakamoto, 61, talks to high school students about Minamata disease in Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Congenital Minamata disease patient Shinobu Sakamoto, 61, talks to high school students about Minamata disease in Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Government Expands Mercury Hazard Education

Director General of Waste, Waste and Hazardous Toxic Materials (B3) Management, Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK), Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, said that small-scale gold mining in the international world is still a problem, because many still use mercury to mine gold.

According to Rosa Vivien, this is also a challenge in controlling the use of mercury in Indonesia. However, the government, said Rosa Vivien, continues to make efforts to educate and disseminate information about the dangers of mercury to the public, as part of its commitment to reducing and eliminating mercury use.

“The biggest challenge is small-scale gold mining. If it’s like energy, manufacturing, that’s what we can do approach to industry, and using technology. But the problem is that small-scale gold mining is related to the community, especially when they are located in remote area, the year is gold mining. Nah Indeed, we did the first socialization, the dangers of using mercury,” he said.

Indonesia’s commitment to reducing and eliminating the use of mercury is shown in data held by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. In 2019 and 2020, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said there was a reduction in the use of mercury in the battery industry, lighting industry, medical equipment, as well as a ban on the use of mercury in small-scale gold mining. Environmental pollution by mercury, said Rosa Vivien, also results in health problems experienced by humans.

An illegal gold mining operation in a river in South Kalimantan where miners use mercury which pollutes the river and soil causing environmental and health damage.  (Photo: AFP/Romeo Gacad)

An illegal gold mining operation in a river in South Kalimantan where miners use mercury which pollutes the river and soil causing environmental and health damage. (Photo: AFP/Romeo Gacad)

Rosa Vivien added, “The impact is, indeed, if the pollution is in water media, soil media, air media. Nah, The problem is if the mercury enters the food chain. So, if we go into the water, for example, a small fish is eaten by a big fish, we catch the fish and then we eat it, that is what enters humans, which is very dangerous.”

Strict Regulation

The Chairperson of the Kawali Indonesia Lestari Coalition, Puput TD Putra, said the government needed to be firm in regulating regulations and law enforcement related to the illegal trade in mercury. Although he appreciates the government’s commitment to reducing, controlling and eliminating mercury, Puput TD Putra said that the widespread practice of buying and selling mercury in the area around community mining is evidence that the government’s efforts to save the environment from mercury are not strong enough.

“Without online they can even get it at the stalls that are in the illegal mining area. They sell it at retail, from per half kilogram, or per one liter, half a liter is available, per quarter is available. Without online whatever they can, sell and can earn. I don’t know where this came from, what is certain is that it happened in these illegal mining areas, especially people’s mines. Usually the pattern of this mercury seller may also accommodate the mining products,” he said. [pr/em]

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