The Illegal Trade in Chemicals

Illegal mercury trade - spotlight on Latin America

Cartagena Port of entry for nearly all legal mercury imports.

Other key trading hubs for mercury to Latin America:

Turkey Singapore Hong Kong

Bucaramanga Distribution and trading hub for illegal mercury. Entry point for illegal mercury from Venezuela. Medellín Key trading hub for illegal mercury. Cúcuta

Panama Major storage and transit hub for legal and illegal mercury going to South America.

Primary mining

400-600+ tonnes/ year

Mexico Major source of primary (mined) mercury, supplying especially Colombia Bolivia and Ecuador.

El Jocote

4980 kg illegal mercury seized on the Mexico-Guatemala border. Buenaventura

Venezuela Transit country for illegal mercury.

Important port of entry for illegal mercury.

Ecuador Widespread ASGM use of mercury. Transit country for mercury traded to neighbouring countries. Colombia Widespread ASGM use of mercury. Illicit gold mining has become a US $2.4 billion industry, much of it produced using mercury.


Widespread ASGM use of mercury.

Brazil Actual and

Import mercury and re-export. Illegal export to neighbouring countries. Bolivia

Proposed locations of monitoring and control units in Brazil responsible, inter alia, for dealing with illegal mercury and gold trade.

Joinville IBAMA* seized 430 kg illegal mercury shipped from Turkey. Itajaí IBAMA* seized 1700 kg illegal mercury shipped from Turkey.



* Large mines (PER, ARG, CHL) recover 150-200 tonnes/year by-product mercury, which is mostly sent to temporary storage pending disposal.

Primary mining of mercury (cinnabar) Heavily a ected by illegal mercury trade Mercury as by-product from industry mining Major trading routes for illegal mercury Signatories to the Minamata Convention Parties to the Minamata Convention * IBAMA Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources

Source: UN Environment Programme, 2017.

Figure 6: Evidence of illegal mercury trade in Latin America

Singapore, as an example, is known for its relatively relaxed regulatory, pro-business environment. The downside of this strategy, however, is that illicit activities may have more scope in which to flourish. According to an October 2016 comparison of major commercial trading hubs by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Singapore scored well on its customs environment (EIU 2016), with clearance and inspection times among the best in the region for goods with Singapore as the final destination. Singapore, however, received a relatively low ranking overall, largely as a result of its particular laxity with regard to transparency and free trade zone governance. For transparency, Singapore received a poor rating for government cooperation with stakeholders. With regard to free trade zone governance, Singapore received a score of only one out of four on the basis of such observations as insufficient monitoring or

checks on warehouses for smuggled goods. The results of the 2016 assessment suggested that Singapore pays much less attention to goods transiting the country than it does to goods coming into the country to stay. The Economist Intelligence Unit published an updated and expanded illicit trade environment index in June 2018. This is the most recent comparative assessment of the extent to which 84 countries enable (or inhibit) illicit trade through their policies and initiatives to combat illicit trade. The 2018 assessment confirmed the 2016 findings, with a poor score for “transparency and trade” not only for Singapore, but also for the UAE and Colombia, with Singapore and the UAE rated especially low on the criterion of free trade zone governance. Figure 6 provides an overview of some of the illegal mercury trade in Latin America.

The Illegal Trade in Chemicals


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