Mercury programme

UNIDO helps introduce clean technologies and policy reforms to minimize the use and discharges of mercury by promoting Best Available Technologies (BAT) and Best Environmental Practices (BEP) through awareness raising, capacity building, and technology transfer. UNIDO’s Mercury Programme has traditionally focused on the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector; however more recently UNIDO has showcased its comparative advantage outside of the ASGM sector by moving into areas such as the management of mercury in waste and other industries.


ASGM is a major cause of mercury releases and environmental pollution. The propensity for water transport of mercury, its chemical transformation and bioaccumulation, and its potential transport in transboundary rivers and aquifers, makes it a threat not only to the health of miners and of ecosystems at the local level, but also to the environmental health of the global community. Currently, ASGM is one of the largest anthropogenic sources of mercury emission to the environment. UNIDO estimates that nearly 100% of all mercury used in ASGM is released into the environment. Releases are estimated at an average of 1000 tonnes of mercury per year.

Due to UNIDO’s experience and strong presence in this sector it was designated as the co-lead, for the Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining area of the Global Mercury Partnership. It shares this lead with the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), an NGO based in Washington DC, USA.

The Minimata Convention

UNIDO has been actively involved in the UNEP-led intergovernmental negotiations to develop an internationally binding treaty on Mercury.  The text for the Minimata Convention was agreed upon in January, 2013 and the Convention will be opened for signature in October 2013 during the Plenipotentiary Conference in Japan. More information on the treaty and its negotiations can be found here.

UNIDO projects

UNIDO has six ongoing project financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF); in addition, each project works with a network of partners that provide co-financing and expertise and with which various activities are coordinated. The projects are:

  1. Improve the health and environment of artisanal gold mining communities by reducing Mmercury Emissions and Promoting Sound Chemical Management” in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal
  2. Implementing integrated measures for minimizing mercury releases from artisanal gold mining” in Ecuador and Peru
  3. Improve the health and environment of artisanal gold mining communities in thePhilippines by reducing mercury emissions
  4. Reduce Mercury Emissions and Promote Sound Chemical Management in Zinc Smelting Operations” in China
  5. Reduce the impacts of mercury on human health and the environment by promoting sound chemical management in Mongolia
  6. Preparatory project to facilitate the implementation of the legally binding instrument on mercury (Minamata Convention) in Argentina to protect health and the environment

UNIDO implemented the Global Mercury Project from 2002-2007. The project was implemented in 5 different countries and was successful in raising global awareness on ASGM and mercury issues. Global Mercury Project