Readers note: From October 31 to November 2, 2023, Artisanal Gold Council staff from Canada, Burkina Faso, Mongolia, and The Philippines attended the Fifth Annual Conference of the Parties to the Minimata Convention. Below is part 1 of 4 in a series of reflections from the conference.
Roger Tissot is the Executive Director of Artisanal Gold Council (AGC).
Question (Q): What was your main takeaway from COP5?
Roger Tissot (RT): It was the first time I attended such an event. It really opened my eyes, to see the entire world come together for a common objective: to make mercury history. It shows the complexity and the reach of the task. It also allowed me to understand where AGC fits in the search for that objective. AGC’s best contribution is by excelling at executing the projects that are financed by funders agencies and supporting the ASGM community in its quest for professionalization.
Q: What can AGC do to continue furthering the goals of the Minamata Convention?
RT: Implement projects successfully, meeting donors’ and communities’ objectives and expectations. Work closely with communities and act as ambassadors of their expectations, needs, and goals vis-a-vis government authorities, donors, and the different businesses from the gold supply chain.
Q: Are we making progress?
RT: Yes, slowly, but we remain optimistic. However, much more effort needs to be done in the area of formalization. The goal is not just about eradicating mercury but about transforming an activity associated with a cycle of poverty into an environmentally sustainable one bringing economic prosperity to many rural areas of the global south.
Q: What are the successes and opportunities for growth for the international community (in your respective countries) to meet Minamata goals??
RT: Overall governments need to provide strong political commitment in the design and implementation of ASGM regulations.
Q: What can you and your team do to advance progress towards Minamata Convention goals?
RT: As a small organization with global reach, we must study more, be creative, and avoid conventional wisdom. We are nimble and can be creative, but our recommendations must always be supported by science and data.
Q: How is AGC different from other organizations doing the same work, or similar, and how can we leverage our unique place in the international community?
RT: We must excel at implementing practical solutions: at the technical level. The technologies we suggest must be tested and be viable not only from the perspective of mercury elimination, but also from the perspective of cost, productivity, environmental sustainability, and adaptability to local communities’ norms and traditions. As such we cannot be married with one technical solution that fits all. We must be creative when proposing financial alternatives for ASGM’s access to finances. We also must have a very strong understanding of the gold supply chain, and how the market works. Finally, we must be artisanal miners’ best friends, advocating for their professionalization and their right to exercise their economic activity safely and legally.
AGC is well placed to make a difference because despite our small size we have a global reach. In the countries where we operate, we work as a local organization, assuming a decentralized management we prioritize local expertise and know-how but are supported by the global reach and constant feedback gathered and shared from our team of experts in Canada.
The Minamata convention strengthened ties with indigenous people. AGC welcomes the decision since a significant share of ASGM occurs in indigenous land, but is often carried by non-indigenous rural farmers (colonos). Significant work lies ahead in developing proper consultation and beneficiation mechanisms that would allow non-indigenous miners to be able to secure their license to operate in indigenous territories, particularly in areas with limited government presence.
Below is a summary of this important step, part of the overall summary of the work done at the Minimata COP5:
Among the decisions made at COP-5, Parties defined new dates to phase out mercury-added products including cosmetics, strengthened ties with Indigenous Peoples, advanced the first effectiveness evaluation of the Convention, and reached an agreement on a threshold for mercury waste. Read the press release with the main outcomes, and watch the press conference and the video of the last day of the meeting.