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Mercury is highly toxic and hazardous to human health and the environment. The use of mercury for gold extraction is the main source of mercury pollution across the globe. As a consequence of this pollution, the right to life, health, food and a clean and healthy environment, among other rights are severely impacted, as well as people in particular situations of vulnerability, including indigenous peoples and pregnant women. It is also the cause of environmental injustices such as deforestation and biodiversity loss, and an obstacle for the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2013, the Minamata Convention was adopted in order to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury. The Convention contains important provisions that have led to positive developments such as the substantial reduction of the legal trade of mercury. However, the Convention has design and implementation weaknesses. Instead of banning the global trade in mercury and prohibiting its use in such mining, it allows these practices to continue.
In this context, the Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, Dr. Marcos A. Orellana has dedicated his thematic report to the 51st session of the Human Rights Council to the use of mercury in small-scale gold mining and its impact on human rights (A/HRC/51/35). He analyses in his report the human rights violations and environmental injustices that result from the use of mercury in small-scale gold mining and proposes ways to address these human rights and environmental violations; as well as the shortcomings of the Convention.
This side event will provide an opportunity to further discuss the conclusions and recommendations of the report; the measures and initiatives adopted by States to address the negative impact caused by mercury, the way the mercury pollution impacts on human rights and on people in vulnerable situations and the responsibility of the private sector among other topics.
The presentation by panellists will be followed by 20 minutes of Q&A moderated by the Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, Dr. Marcos A. Orellana who will be providing the closing remarks.