Remarks by Ambassador Blake at the “Dangerous Mercury: Creative Solutions to Reduce Its Use in Small Scale Mining” Presentation, Jakarta

Special welcome to our panelists today:
Ms. Lana Saria from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources;
Deputy Minister for Hazardous Waste and Solid Waste Management Ilham Malik.Director of Technology Center for Mineral Resources Dr. Yudi Prababangkara,
Mr. Tim Mac Hansen, Counselor for Development, Danish Embassy,
Ms. Budi Susilorini, Executive Director of Blacksmith Institute

I would also like to give a special welcome to all of the engineering students from UNSERA, and students from Mohammadiya University.

The U.S. has a strong commitment to environmental cooperation in Indonesia: $500 mln for climate change; active work on biodiversity protection; and the robust EPA-MOEF collaboration on a number of environmental issues.

But one of the most important environmental challenges facing Indonesia is the illegal clearing of tropical forests by small scale miners looking for gold and other minerals.

I had a chance to see this first hand on a recent visit to central Kalimantan.  The miners use mercury to capture the trace amounts of gold, leading to a poisoning of the water and land, and deadly release of mercury into the air when it is burned off to get the pure gold during processing and refining.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin and major public health hazard particularly for women and children. Reducing or eliminating the hundreds of tons of mercury used every year by small scale miners would be a tremendous accomplishment to improving public health and reducing environmental degradation.

We have talked in the past here @America about the problem.  Today we want to talk about solutions.

One is that as part of its work with MOEF, EPA is assisting the Indonesian with capacity building in reduction of mercury use and release from artisanal gold mining and has donated a mercury monitor to the MOE.

The Department of State’s mercury program supports international efforts to inventory and track the supply of mercury.

An important step in that regard was the Government of Indonesia’s signing of the Minimata Convention on Mercury in 2013.  I hope that the DPR will ratify this year.

I also want to congratulate the Government of Indonesia on completion of the National Action Plan on mercury and the National Action Plan on ASGM.  Indonesia is a leader in moving forward so quickly with these implementing documents.

Another solution is the simple technology pioneered by Yayasan Tambuhak Sinta that captures mercury during the processing phase, thereby helping to recycle the mercury but also removing 90% of the mercury that would otherwise escape into the air and pose a deadly hazard to those who breathe it.

So thank you all for your efforts to address this critical issue.  We look forward to a great discussion and to continuing our collaboration with all of you.

As prepared.