UNODC Brazil and the Brazilian Ministry of Environment and Climate Change hold International Conference on Mercury Trafficking

Brasilia, 14 November 2023 – The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Brazil and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MMA) held the International Conference on Mercury Trafficking in Brasilia on 13 and 14 November.

Attended by officials of the Federal Government, security forces, environmental inspection agencies, embassies, Public Prosecutor's Office, and civil society, as well as representatives from Peru and Colombia, the conference aimed to provide a space for qualified discussion on emerging trends and challenges related to illicit mercury trafficking for around 60 participants. The event also had as objectives to strengthen co-operation between the competent national authorities and the sharing of best practices related to the issue.

At the opening of the conference, Leopoldo Fernández Herce, regional coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Global Programme on Crimes that Affect the Environment (GPCAE/UNODC), stressed the need to monitor mercury entry points in the country and highlighted the conference's contribution to achieving this goal. "UNODC believes in spaces for the exchange of experiences between experts and interested actors, which can contribute to the development of the issue in the country and pave the way for a robust national and regional response to mercury trafficking," he said.

The director of the Environmental Quality Department of the National Secretariat for the Urban Environment and Environmental Quality (SQA/MMA), Thaianne Resende Henriques Fabio, drew attention to the impact of mercury use on the health of indigenous populations and defended the importance of inter-institutional coordination in tackling the issue. "Mercury is a substance that demands all our concern because what it causes to the environment and human health is irreparable destruction," she stated.

The International Conference on Mercury Trafficking is the result of the MMA's partnership with two UNODC Brazil projects: ECOS - Regional Cooperation to Address Environmental Crimes, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Tapajós - Project to Reduce the Prevalence of Forced Labour in the Mining Sector in the State of Pará, supported by the United States Department of State's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

The event was divided into five expert panels, which debated the different state interventions related to mercury. The first panel, on recent cases involving mercury trafficking, was composed of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), the Federal Police (PF), and the Federal Highway Police (PRF). Afterward, representatives from the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Abin), the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), the National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples (Funai), and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) discussed the health impacts and research findings related to mercury trafficking.

Management, safe disposal, and alternatives to the use of mercury in mining were the themes discussed on the third panel, with the participation of the MMA, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and UNODC Peru. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security (MJSP), the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), the Ministry of Health (MS), and the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples (MPI) took part in the panel, mediated by the MMA. Finally, representatives of the Colombian and Brazilian Public Prosecutor's Offices and a representative of the National Mining Agency discussed national experiences and initiatives to prevent and combat mercury trafficking.

The conference also included a presentation by representatives from UNODC Vienna and UNODC Peru, who brought to the attention of the other participants the document “Responding to illegal mining and trafficking in metals and minerals: A guide to good legislative practices” and the “Response Framework on Illegal Mining and the Illicit Trafficking in Precious Metals”. Joining the UNODC officials in this panel were representatives from UNEP, the guardian of the Minamata Convention, who discussed the impact of transnational crime on the protection of human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.

Also during the conference, the UNODC Tapajós project presented the results of a study on the analysis of the gold value chain, and the UNODC Brazil environmental team presented recommendations for preventing and combating these crimes in indigenous territories.

Based on the discussions held, the UNODC team will map needs and identify possibilities to support the strengthening of the response to mercury trafficking and related crimes.

To find out more about UNODC's work on crimes affecting the environment, click here, and for UNODC publications on the subject, click here.



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