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Export and storage of mercury

The European Union (EU) shall ban all exports of metallic mercury and certain mercury compounds and mixtures from 15 March 2011. With the entry into force of this ban, Member States must guarantee the safe storage of this metal used in or produced by certain industrial activities.

ACT

Regulation (EC) No 1102/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2008 on the banning of exports of metallic mercury and certain mercury compounds and mixtures and the safe storage of metallic mercury.

SUMMARY

The ban on exports of mercury from the European Union (EU) shall contribute to reducing the global mercury supply, and, indirectly, to limiting the emissions of this heavy metal, which is extremely toxic to the environment.

The ban

This Regulation bans the exports of metallic mercury and certain mercury compounds and mixtures originating from the EU. The ban is to apply from 15 March 2011 to exports of:

  • metallic mercury (Hg);
  • cinnabar ore;
  • mercury chloride (Hg2Cl2);
  • mercury oxide (HgO);
  • mixtures of metallic mercury with other substances with a mercury concentration of at least 95 % weight.

Mercury storage

From 15 March 2011, mercury produced by certain industrial activities will have to be stored in conditions that guarantee the safety of human health and the environment. The industrial activities concerned are:

  • the chlor-alkali industry;
  • the cleaning of natural gas
  • non-ferrous smelting and mining operations; and
  • the extraction of cinnabar ore in the European Union.

Metallic mercury from these sources is considered waste, metallic mercury and can be stored:

  • temporarily or permanently in an underground salt-mine adapted for the purpose or in deep underground, hard rock formations; or even
  • temporarily in above-ground facilities specifically dedicated for that purpose prior to its final disposal.

This option constitutes a derogation from the provisions of Directive 1999/31/EC, which prohibit the disposal of liquid waste in landfills (metallic mercury is liquid at normal temperature and pressure).

Safety assessment

The safety assessment for the storage of mercury is carried out in accordance with Decision 2003/33/EC establishing criteria and procedures for the acceptance of waste at landfills. This assessment shall ensure that the particular risks arising from the nature and long-term properties of the metallic mercury and its containment are covered.

Storage permit

The permit which is granted to mercury storage sites shall include requirements for regular visual inspections of the containers and the installation of appropriate vapour detection equipment to detect any leak.

Member States shall submit to the Commission a copy of any permit issued for a facility designated to store mercury, as well as information on the application and market effects of this Regulation in their territory by 1 July 2012.

Exchange of information

The Commission shall organise an exchange of information between the Member States and the industries concerned on the possibility of:

  • extending the export ban to other mercury compounds, to mixtures with a lower mercury content and to products containing mercury (thermometers, barometers and sphygmomanometers);
  • an import ban of metallic mercury, mercury compounds and products containing mercury;
  • extending the storage obligation to metallic mercury from other sources;
  • time limits concerning temporary storage of metallic mercury.

Background

The ban on exports and the safe storage of surplus mercury are essential elements of the Community strategy concerning mercury adopted in 2005. This strategy aims to combat pollution caused by mercury in the EU and the world. It includes 20 actions which aim to reduce mercury emissions, limit supply and demand and protect against exposure, particularly to methylmercury present in fish.

REFERENCES

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1102/2008

4.12.2008

-

OJ L 304 of 14.11.2008

RELATED ACTS

Communication from the Commission of 28 January 2005, "Community Strategy concerning Mercury" [COM(2005) 20 final- Not published in the Official Journal].
In view of the risks to human health and the environment associated with mercury the EU is drawing up a strategy based on six objectives and accompanied by specific actions chiefly aimed at reducing the quantity and circulation of mercury in the EU and the wider world and populations' exposure to the substance.

Directive 82/176/EEC (RO) (SK) (SL) (FI) (SV) of 22 March 1982 on limit values and quality objectives for mercury discharges by the chlor-alkali electrolysis industry [Official Journal L 81 of 27 March 1982].
This Directive lays down limit values for mercury emission standards in the EU's aquatic environment. It also lays down methods for measuring the mercury content in discharges and a monitoring procedure.

Last updated: 22.10.2010
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