The Illegal Trade in Chemicals

that Indonesian mercury sold by a Chinese company with an office in Indonesia may be accompanied by documents that suggest the mercury originated in China. Another possibility is that artisanal operations recycling VCM catalyst may sell some of the recycled mercury to individuals who transport it to Hong Kong for export. China now operates artisanal gold mines in different parts of Africa (UNEP 2017). More than one source has mentioned hearing of mercury illegally imported into Africa and destined for Chinese operators, for example concealed among building materials (Maxson 2016b). Based on interviews with importers and traders, illegal mercury enters the Philippines primarily through the main seaports such as Manila Harbor, hidden and undeclared in container vans filled with other legitimately imported items, and smuggled from neighbouring countries by small boats and outriggers, and unloaded at smaller seaports. A second route goes via Mindanao, the island closest to Malaysia and Indonesia, where smuggling of all sorts of goods occurs between the island of Sabah and Mindanao’s three major fishing ports in Zamboanga, South Cotabato and Sarangani (BAN Toxics 2017). Some miners in the Philippines have reported that relatively small quantities of mercury (about 500 kg per boat) are shipped illegally from Indonesia and Malaysia by fishing boats. The mercury is then transported to Davao, which acts as

a hub for mercury traded to local gold mining areas. Customs officials are aware of this common activity but are hardly able to control it (BAN Toxics 2017).

Colombia, Suriname and Guyana

Some sources report that mercury comes illegally from Venezuela through border crossings in proximity to the Colombian border town of Cúcuta (see Annex 5). Authorities in the area may accept a certain amount of smuggling as long as it helps the local economy and is not accompanied by armed gangs. 8 Once inside Colombia, the mercury is transported into the city of Bucaramanga, which is the local distribution hub for mercury going to illegal mines in the area. As in the case of legal mercury distribution, the main Colombian distribution hub for illicit mercury is Medellín. The national ban on the use of mercury for gold mining, in effect since 16 July 2018, will likely influence the quantities and distribution routes of illegal mercury in the country (Colombiano 2018). Both Suriname and Guyana are Parties to the Minamata Convention. In 2006, Suriname banned the import of mercury, but due to the difficulty of controlling the porous border between Suriname and Guyana, illegal trade is common. Quantities of illegally traded mercury are typically small. For example, in 2016, police in the Nickerie district of Suriname reported confiscating 128 kg of mercury that was imported illegally from Guyana (Basel Convention Regional Centre for the Caribbean Region 2016).

The Illegal Trade in Chemicals


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