TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Knowledge about mercury toxicity should not be regarded as supernatural knowledge. In fact, in practice, it looks as if preventing mercury use in gold mining, especially small-scale and individual ones, were very complicated.
The widespread mercury use clearly brings the threat of severe damage that can impact the offspring of those who are exposed by mercury – if they are alive.
An empirical research conducted in Sekotong, West Lombok and Poboya, Central Sulawesi Sulawesi, showed that the content of mercury in the bodies of the locals exceed the maximum limit of 0.58 ppm, reaching 0.82 and 13.3 ppm.
It is a foregone conclusion that the locals, who mine gold behind their houses, have the potentials to suffer from neurological deseases and pass down mercury to their children.
It is known that the residents in those two places mine gold by using mercury.
Just like in other regions and other countries, in small-scale and individual gold mining sites, mercury is used to make it easy to separate gold from other substances. By using mercury, the operational costs can be reduced.
It is not surprising if all over the world, the biggest demand for mercury comes from small-scale and individual mining industries.
At the same time, mercury emmision it produced is relatively high, which is 11 percent of the total source of mercury produced by humans, is half of the total amount of mercury released to the environment.
In Indonesia, small-scale mining, in fact, makes up the biggest soure of mercurty pollution (57 percent)
It is due to such pollution, and also considering the destructive toxic substances it contains, we already make efforts at the international level to reduce and stop mercury use in various economic activities.
In 2013, after a 3-year negotiation, the Minamata Convention was agreed - it is named used as a reminder of the mercury poisoning disaster in that Japanese town.
The Minamata Convention was aimed at reducing and stoping the use of mercury in several products dan in the process in 2020. It is also aimed at reducing mercury supply and controlling mercury trade all over the world.
In practice, however, this convention is applied on paper only.
Not all countries have ratified the convention. Indonesia is one of the signatory countries aming 100 countries signing the convention.
While the ratification of the convention still takes time, Indonesia actually has at least two regulations that can be used to prevent destruction due to mercury use.
In addition to Law on Protection and Management of the Environment, Indonesia also has Regulation of the Minister of Trade on the Provision, Distribution and Supervision of Toxic Materials.
In several regions such as Aceh for example, two years ago, there was a case of selling of and pollution by mercury commtted by the police, who was charged with those regulations.
While ensuring the prevention and the action, we must find new ways for the practice of small-scale gold mining without mercury and give medical cares for those who are already exposed.