The Illegal Trade in Chemicals



The Centre for Environmental Justice and Development, a non-governmental organization in Kenya, conducted surveys of mercury suppliers and distributors during field visits to ASGM sites in Migori and Kakamega to collect information on mercury use in gold mining – the main reason for the mercury trade in the country. Since Kenya does not produce mercury, it relies on imports. The field research found that the distributors and suppliers have a fairly low level of awareness of the origin of their mercury, but they did identify Chinese companies doing gold processing in the country as a main source. Some suppliers reported getting mercury from Mt. Elgon National Park, implying a potential smuggling operation from other East Africa countries. The main routes of the illegal mercury trade in Kenya include the Port of Mombasa, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Mount Elgon. Some mercury enters the country through Busia towns along the Kenya–Uganda border. Suppliers of illegal mercury change every year and are drawn from Busia, Nairobi, Migori, Mombasa, Mt. Kenya, Tanzania, and Kitale among other places, but most suppliers and distributors of mercury prefer to work with specific suppliers due to lack of trust in the market. The survey further revealed that mercury suppliers and distributors usually work with 2–4 sources of mercury per year.

they acquired the information regarding illegal mercury trade on the Internet and in workshops organized by regulators. They indicated, however, that they are in the mercury business because they still lack alternatives to mercury use in ASGM. This points to a low awareness level of the existing alternatives to mercury use in ASGM applications in the country. The survey revealed that mercury packages are usually unlabeled and sealed by suppliers so that the contents are hard to identify. Suppliers sometimes repackage the mercury into smaller containers – plastic bottles, medicine containers or plastic bags – which they then sell to distributors. Where the mercury packages have labels, they are often written in Chinese, suggesting that most of Kenya´s mercury originates in China.

Both the suppliers and distributors of mercury are well aware of the illegal mercury trade. Some reported that

The Illegal Trade in Chemicals


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