Mercury is a naturally occurring heavy metal. As one of the oldest known elements, it has been used throughout history for various purposes. Since the industrial revolution, however, mercury releases have increased, primarily from artisanal and small-scale mining, power generation, and industrial processes. This has led to an increase in mercury pollution in the global environment. We now know that mercury is highly toxic, causing significant adverse neurological and other health effects in humans and other lifeforms. Once released into the environment, mercury persists, circulating within the atmosphere, water, soil, and biota. Mercury can be taken up by microorganisms, accumulating up the food chain. Moreover, atmospheric mercury can be transported over long distances. Therefore, the global efforts to decrease the mercury pollution are spearheaded by the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
UNDP supports countries to fulfill their future obligations under the Minamata Convention, to phase-out the use of mercury and reduce its releases from artisanal and small-scale gold mining, industrial processes, power generation, and mercury-containing products, among other sources. UNDP has already provided support or is initiating support to a total of 46 countries to implement mercury-related projects through national, regional and global projects. UNDP’s current mercury portfolio amounts to $49 million in GEF grants and $115 million in co-financing.