Minamata Convention Workshop and The Development of Mercury Eradication Action Plan
The Minamata Convention which is effective since 16 August 2017 and has been ratified by 50 countries is the latest international agreement. It aims to protect human health and the environment from the worst impacts caused by mercury. Therefore, in the context of dealing with and preventing further damages on life’s order, the Indonesian Government had ratified the Minamata Convention on 20 September 2017 through the Law Number 11 Year 2017 Concerning Ratification of Minamata Convention on Mercury. The convention drives the Indonesian Government to reduce and phase out mercury from four sectors which are power plant, cosmetic, dental amalgam, and small-scale gold mining sectors. It is also closely related to Presidential Regulation of the Indonesian Republic Number 21 Year 2019 Concerning National Action Plan on Reduction and Mercury Use which aims to reduce and phase out mercury at the national level through integral and sustainable manners.
Based on the data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, there is an estimation of 183.700 miners working in 131 gold mining hot spots in Indonesia. The gold miners and its managers mostly come from agricultural and fisheries working part-time and are looking for additional income to improve their livelihood. Meanwhile, for some local residents, the business’ activities become their main livelihood to support their daily necessities.
In gold mining sector, particularly in Indonesia; mercury is used to separate gold from ore. Mercury and gold settle and combine to form an amalgam. The gold will then be extracted through mercury evaporation. Although mercury is a natural element, the impacts it causes are very dangerous. Moreover, if its use is not immediately phased out. Continuous mercury exposure through the respiratory system will result in disruption of nervous, digestion, and immune systems. When ingested, it accumulates within living organisms and causes serious damage to the nervous system up to a certain stage. In addition, mercury contamination in the environment causes damages to environmental microorganisms.
As a follow-up to the aforementioned activities, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry through the Government Office of Environment of North Sulawesi Province held Minamata Convention Workshop and the Arrangement of Regional and National Action plan, in cooperation with Artisanal Gold Council (AGC) through Program Emas Rakyat Sejahtera and its local partners – Lentera Kartini and AMAN held each workshop on Thursday, 4th July in Manado, South Sulawesi and Friday, 19 July 2019 in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan. The Minamata Convention Workshop is aimed to build a thorough understanding about Minamata Convention and its implementation at the national and regional level; further exploration on the necessary steps to promote, control, reduce and phase out mercury use and its emission.
Yun Insiani, as the director of Hazardous and Toxic Materials Management of the Ministry of Environment and Health stated, “The Minamata Convention Workshop was held as a medium to bridge the Local Governments’ special needs in implementing Minamata Convention and coordination regarding National and Regional Action Plan. The workshop is important due to Indonesia’s commitment to stopping mercury use in various sectors in the upcoming 2021. Various accelerations must be done and supports from several sectors are needed”.
On the same occasion, Agni Pratama as the Country Project Manager of AGC said, “AGC through Program Emas Rakyat Sejahtera is committed to assist the Indonesian Government in efforts to stop mercury use through improving the lives of small-scale gold miners in North Sulawesi by using three pillars of approach, which are: 1) Improved practice betterment regarding technical, environmental management, health, gender-sensitive, and business practices for gold miners; 2) Policy structure establishment to support environment friendly small-scale gold miners activities; 3) Private sectors’ cooperation building to create chains of gold supply from environment friendly small-scale gold mining. At present, AGC is working in three areas namely Tatelu (North Sulawesi), Tobongon (North Sulawesi) and Parenggean (Central Kalimantan)”.
“Hopefully the workshop on Minamata Convention can produce tangible benefits for us and become the bridge and catalyst for knowledge and technology transfer. Therefore, it becomes the starting point of mercury phasing out and solution to the issues happening in gold mining activities in Indonesia,” stated Ibu Yun Insiani.