After four years of negotiations, the Minamata Convention on mercury is set to be finalized this October at a special meeting to be held in Minamata, Japan. Earlier in the month, representatives from more than 140 countries convened at Geneva for negotiations regarding the treaty. On January 19, they have agreed on the terms of the treaty, which primarily aims to control the use of mercury in order to eventually lessen its presence on Earth.
Under the Minamata Convention, imports and exports of mercury will no longer be allowed. The signatories to the legally-binding output of the negotiations have agreed that all production, importation and exportation of batteries and thermometer that contain mercury will be stopped. The same can be said of fluorescent lights. The treaty aims to reduce mercury significantly by the year 2020. Japan sought for a provision to be included in the treaty that would require polluters to pay the victims and to restore the polluted area to their original state, but it was reportedly denied.
Minamata is a fishing and farming village located at the west coast of Kyushu, Japan. The entire village was a victim to horrible mercury poisoning in the 50s and 60s that came about when the Chisso Corporation dumped wastewater containing large amounts of methyl-mercury into the sea. The people, even animals, in the village developed what is now known as Minamata Disease, a debilitating neurological syndrome caused by ingestion of mercury in large doses.