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Civil Society Responses to the Indonesian Presidential Instruction Regarding the Use of Mercury in A


Jakarta, Indonesia, March 16, 2017 - Indonesia is one of the 128 countries that have agreed to adopt a new treaty on mercury, called the Minamata Convention on Mercury. This was established in Kumamoto, Japan on October 10, 2013. Currently, 38 countries have ratified the treaty although this will soon rise to 50 countries.[1]

President of the Republic of Indonesia, Joko Widodo chaired a limited coordination meeting to discuss the elimination of mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) at the Presidential Office, Jakarta, last Thursday, 9 March 2017. In the closed meeting, the President Widodo presented seven presidential instructions regarding the ban of the use of mercury in small-scale gold mining sites.[2]

"Although the instruction was not followed by a formal product of law yet, the civil society appreciates and welcomes the President's instruction to eliminate the use of mercury in gold mining, both small scale and large scale," said Krishna Zaki of BaliFokus.

"The political will and coordination of multi-stakeholders is the key to implementing the National Action Plan, mainly to enforce the law and rehabilitation (of what?). Inter-ministries and agencies need to create an integrated joint implementation mechanism, that will enable the monitoring and evaluation of the measured performance of various parties involved, including the performance of local government,” said Margaretha Quina from ICEL.

This Directive is expected to assist executives in accelerating measures that are required to respond to the elimination of the use of mercury, by optimising coordination between ministries or between central and regional governments.

"The practice of small-scale gold mines scattered throughout Indonesia is in need of regulation and clear rules so that the impact of those activities on the lives of citizens when the activities take place and post-activity can be controlled," added Budi Susilorini Pure Earth/Blacksmith Institute.

“This Presidential Instruction is a good step but requires some additional action in order to respond to the causes and effects of mercury in a holistic manner to ensure environmental sustainability and the protection of future generations," said Dwi Sawung of WALHI.

Therefore, the civil society calls for affirmative measures to be taken by the House Representatives, the President and his staff as follows:

First, to strengthen the political commitment to the realisation of the President's instructions, we ask the honourable members of the House of Representatives to immediately approve the plan to ratify the Minamata Convention on mercury coordinated by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, considering the impact of mercury pollution that occurred in the 850 hotspots in 27 provinces is at a critical level. In addition, the Academic Script of the Minamata Convention Ratification Bill should be presented in a transparent and participatory to the public.

Second, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources need to make arrangements and clear rules for the artisanal and small-scale gold mining operations, including a formalisation mechanism, so that the operators of activities have access to the technical guidance from the government for environmentally friendly method of gold extraction. Further, we recommend that the gold processing activities should not be taking place in the residential areas to prevent the environmental impacts and human health problems. Studies show that the cost of health and socio-economic consequences of mercury could reach 12-24 billion rupiah per year (approx. $961,000 - $1,630,000).[3] Regular monitoring of government as well as the application of sanctions to the violation of the rules needs to be implemented, enforced, and provide incentives according to the rules and regulations.

Third, the responsible agencies in the field of mineral resources and their trade, both at central and local levels, are also expected to prohibit and stop the production of local mercury processed from cinnabar from various islands, and must strictly prohibit the trade in murcury in the Republic of Indonesia as well as its exportation to other countries. Furthermore, other potential sources of mercury as a byproduct of the large scale mining, oil and gas sectors, need to be inventoried, regulated and monitored so that the mercury captured or processed from waste will not be recirculate into the market. Non-chemicals gold processing methods need to be introduced and promoted coupled with technical assistance and within the context of the Regional Action Plan(s) for the elimination of mercury in small-scale gold mining sector.

Fourth, regarding the protection of the environment as a legacy for future generations, we request the Ministry of Environment and Forests to identify the mercury-contaminated areas and develop strategise the clean it up.

Fifth, under the direction of the Ministry of Health, all stateholders need to develop a method of mercury intoxication victim identification and suspected mercury poisoning similar to Minamata disease sufferers. In addition to contaminated land, the impact of mercury poisoning in humans is also a long-term legacy that must be dealt with seriously by the government due to the national security concerns.

Exposure to mercury can damage the nervous system, kidneys and cardiovascular system. Growth organ systems, such as the nervous system in foetuses, are amongst the most sensitive to the toxic effects of mercury, although almost all organs of the body are also susceptible. Mercury exposure in humans could occur mainly through the consumption of fish contaminated with mercury. However, mercury-contaminated rice and direct contact with mercury vapour can also be the source of exposure to mercury.

The new agreement on mercury will address the trade and circulation of mercury, leading to its restriction and elimination in products and industrial processes. This includes mercury in gold mining small scale, eliminating the emission and release of mercury into the air, water and soil, the waste management of mercury and storage of mercury, and mercury-contaminated land remediation.

UNEP Global Mercury Assessment, 2013, states that Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining/ASGM was identified as the largest source of mercury emissions from intentional use of mercury. In Indonesia, emissions and removable highest mercury came from the ASGM sector (57.5%), production of oil and gas (10.8%), the combustion of coal (9.9%), burning garbage incinerators and open burning (9.3%), as well as waste disposal (8%). Based on the results of the inventory study of mercury in Indonesia in 2012, mercury released to the environment around 339.250 kg Hg/year, approximately 59.37% is released into the air, the water released to the 15.5% and 14% released to soil/sediment. ASGM sector of Indonesia's total emissions release about 195 tons/year, or about 20% of total global emissions of mercury ASGM.[4]

Seven instructions of the President Joko Widodo, 9 March 2017, regarding the use of mercury in mining sector were:

1. Review the governance of artisanal mining and small-scale gold inside as well as outside the forest area.

2. The use of mercury in artisanal mining should be banned.

3. Enact Minemata Convention agreements regarding the use of mercury in artisanal gold mining but also in medium and large-scale mining practices.

4. Regulate the trade and distribution of mercury including tightening the mercury importation supervision.

5. Educate miners about the dangers of mercury to humans and the environment.

6. Find solutions not only curb the illegal mining practices but also looking for the alternative livelihood for miners.

7. Communities contaminated by mercury must be given immediate medical attention.

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BaliFokus is a non-governmental organisation in Indonesia that works to increase community capacity, quality of life and advocate for toxic-free environment together with all stakeholders in sustainable way.

Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) is an institution work in the area of environmental legal advocacy and legal policy improvements, increased capacity, as well as assistance for the affected people and the government for a better protection and management of the environment.

Pure Earth/Blacksmith Institute is a nonprofit organisation with mission to identify and clean up polluted land in the third world where the concentration of toxins have a negative impact on human health.

Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI) is an independent environmental organisations, non-profit and the largest environmental network in Indonesia, operates in 27 provinces with a total member of 479 member organisations and 156 individual members (as of December 2011).


[1] Minamata Convention on mercury. Countries: signatories and ratification http://www.mercuryconvention.org/Countries/tabid/3428/language/en-US/Default.aspx

[2] Ban Mercury Use in Traditional Mining, President Jokowi Instructs http://setkab.go.id/en/ban-mercury-use-in-traditional-mining-president-jokowi-instructs/

[3] Economic Losses Due to Mercury Pollution in Indonesia http://www.balifokus.asia/single-post/2017/03/08/Economic-Losses-Due-to-Mercury-Pollution-in-Indonesia

Kania Dewi. 2012. Inventory of mercury releases in Indonesia. BaliFokus. [4]

For more information:

Krishna Zaki; krishna@balifokus.asia; +6281230002825

Margaretha Quina: margaretha.quina@icel.or.id; +6281287991747

Budi Susilorini; budi@blacksmithinstitute.org; +628128008438

Dwi Sawung: sawung@walhi.or.id; +628156104606


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