Press Release: Ban Online Trading of Toxic Chemicals: Mercury and Cyanide


For more information: Yuyun Ismawati;; +447583768707 Margaretha Quina;; +6281287991747 Krishna Zaki;; +6281230002825 Jakarta, Indonesia, December 12, 2018 - Mercury is a hazardous and toxic substances (Bahan Berbahaya dan Beracun or B3) which is banned throughout the world based on the Minamata Convention for Mercury. Indonesia has ratified this Convention on October 19, 2017 and strengthened it through Law No. 11 of 2017 concerning Ratification of the Minamata Convention on mercury. In conjunction of the World Human Rights Day, 10 December 2018, to uphold the Basic Right to a Healthy Environment for All, we remind the Indonesian government and the public about the urgent need to ban the trade and use of mercury in gold mining sector immediately.

Since 2012, the European Union and the United States have enforced the mercury export ban. While in Indonesia, through Minister of Trade Regulation No. 75/M-DAG/PER/10/2014 the importation of mercury, trade and use in the mining sector have already prohibited. However, since 2015, Indonesia has becoming the 2nd largest mercury producer and exporter globally, where the exported mercury reached 630 tons (2016, UN Comtrade database).

Mercury is widely used to extract gold at various illegal gold mining sites spread out in 93 districts/regencies in 32 provinces. In the last five years, there have been many cases of mercury poisoning and children born with disabilities in these locations. Mercury and cinnabar are sold freely online, in shops as well as delivered door-to-door, utilises social media platform and various online trading (e-commerce) websites. Recently, cyanide has followed the same pattern and sold widely without control.

"Almost all mercury players in Indonesia do their business illegally: producers, traders, exporters, and users, especially in the small-scale gold mining sector. For more than 20 years the Indonesian government has been doing omission. Now is the time to take decisive action," said Yuyun Ismawati, Senior Advisor of BaliFokus/Nexus3 Foundation and 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize awardee. "The illegal mercury and gold businesses harm the Indonesian economy by more than 1 trillion rupiah (or more than US $ 65 million). By accommodating mercury sales on the online platform, it means Bukalapak, Tokopedia, Indonet, Indotrading, Shopee, etc., support criminal activities."

“The Indonesian Police (POLRI) already has an online crime unit, trade in illegal mercury needs to be one of the priorities of the unit," said Margaretha Quina, Researcher at the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law. "The main focus must be to ensure that any mercury trade, both imports, exports and distribution, is not intended for end users in the gold mining sector. This prohibition was clearly stated in the Minister of Trade Regulation No. 75/2014.” In addition, Quina stressed the importance of enforcing import-export provisions and customs in international trade in mercury.

Furthermore, the WALHI National Executive stated that, "Providing a place to sell mercury freely means violating the law and helping with environmental crimes that will have a very broad and long lasting impacts," said Dwi Sawung, WALHI's Energy and Urban Campaigner. "Limiting the sale of hazardous and toxic materials also avoids environmental pollution and diseases that can be caused by these chemicals."

Regarding the role of local authorities, ”District/City and Provincial Governments must take action on the use of illegal mercury and cyanide in the small-scale mining sector and immediately handle the mercury poisoning cases," said Dyah Paramita of the Centre for Regulation, Policy and Governance. "Based on Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Regulation No. 26 year 2018 concerning the Implementation of Good Mining Rules and Mineral and Coal Mining Supervision, the Governor must supervise the implementation of good mining engineering rules covering aspects of occupational safety and health of mining and management of the mining environment. In this case it is clear, the Governor is responsible for ensuring there is no practice of using harmful mercury in mining activities."

Other activist added that, "Although not processing gold, the areas where cinnabar ores are being extracted into mercury, also pollute the air, soil and the surrounding environment," said Prigi Arisandi, Director of Ecoton who is also the 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize awardee. “Cleaning up mercury contaminated soil costs a lot and takes time."

For that we call on:

  • National agencies for:

  • Arrange policies regarding the cessation and prohibition of the use of mercury as soon as possible and comprehensively in accordance with applicable state obligations based on the Minamata Convention on mercury;

  • Coordinate with the Provincial Government and Local Government to take action against small scale mining that still uses mercury and is not licensed;

  • Provide a guide book to manage confiscated mercury;

  • Coordinate to improve health services and prioritise public health services in mercury polluted areas for communities affected by mercury, especially for children and women.

  • Provincial Governments and Local Governments:

  • Take firm action against the illegal producers and traders of mercury and cyanide;

  • Use your obligations and authorities to manage the potential of natural resources in your respective regions responsibly for the welfare of your people;

  • Identify sites and areas that are contaminated with mercury to be cleaned immediately;

  • Providing assistance and improving health services to help communities affected by mercury, especially children and women;

  • Coordinate between agencies and institutions to enforce the law as needed.

  • Law enforcement officers:

  • Do not involved in the illegal gold and cinnabar mining activities, production and sale of mercury;

  • Enact law enforcement actions against importers, producers, traders and exporters of illegal mercury and cyanide.

  • Merchants of mercury and cyanide:

  • Stop the trade in mercury and cyanide for the small-scale gold mining sector;

  • Follow the prevailing trading procedures.

  • Online trading platform owners and managers:

  • Immediately close the shops/B3 seller accounts on your respective platforms, because the mercury you facilitate for sale comes from illegal sources and to be use in illegal and unlicensed gold mining activities.

- END -

BaliFokus/Nexus3 Foundation is a non-governmental organisation that works to protect the community, especially vulnerable groups, from environmental, health and development issues to create a society that is free from toxics, just and sustainable for future generations.

Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) is an independent non-governmental organisation for environmental law, involved in advocacy and community empowerment.

Center for Regulation, Policy, and Governance (CRPG) is a university-affiliated research centre located in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia. Ibn Khaldun University Bogor hosted the CRPG secretariat. The CRPG is the result of a reorganisation of the Water Governance Centre, which was established in 2011.

Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI) is the largest environmental movement organisation in Indonesia, which actively encourages efforts to save and restore the environment in Indonesia. WALHI works to continue to promote the recognition of rights to the environment, be protected and fulfilment of human rights as a form of responsibility of the State for the fulfilment of the sources of life of the people.

Ecoton (Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation) is an independent institution founded in 2000 to promote environmental justice for present and future generations, especially in the management of wetland resources and sustainable river ecosystems.

The press release document can be downloaded here.

The list of online mercury traders can be downloaded here.

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