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Cablegate: Brazil: Interested in Cooperation with Epa On Mercury, But

VZCZCXRO0745
RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHBR #2269/01 3471038
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131038Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0637
RUEAEPA/HQ EPA WASHDC
INFO RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 5556
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 1309
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 7482

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BRASILIA 002269

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR OES/STC, OES/ENV, WHA/EPSC, WHA/BSC, AND L/OES
EPA FOR OFFICE OF INT'L ACTIVITIES - C.HILL-MACON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV TNGD KSCA BR
SUBJECT: BRAZIL: INTERESTED IN COOPERATION WITH EPA ON MERCURY, BUT
NOT THE ITAITUBA PROJECT

1. (U) THIS CABLE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED AND IS NOT FOR
INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY. Over the last six months, the Brazilian Ministry
of Environment (MMA) has repeatedly expressed interest in
cooperating with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in
the field of mercury. They would like an instrument formalizing
this cooperation, which would be based on the guidance provided in
June by Brazil's National Council on the Environment (CONAMA). At
the same time, MMA officials have adamantly insisted that they are
not interested in entering into a formal cooperative arrangement
concerning the ongoing small-scale gold mining project in Itaituba.
END SUMMARY

3. (SBU) Throughout the second-half of the year, MMA officials in
meetings with the Embassy's Environment, Science, Technology and
Health (ESTH) Counselor and ESTH Officer have underscored a two-part
message regarding cooperation with EPA on mercury. At various
meetings in December, November, September and July, ESTH Counselor
and ESTH Officer met with Julio Baena, Senior Advisor for bilateral
affairs in the Office of International Affairs, Sergia de Souza
Oliveira, Project Manager for mercury and chemicals in the
Secretariat for Climate Changes and Environmental Quality, and

SIPDIS
Mariana Egler, MMA Mercury Specialist to discuss possible
cooperation on mercury with the EPA.

POSSIBLE COOPERATION AND INSTRUMENT

4. (SBU) In each one of the meetings, MMA officials showed great
interest in a cooperative relationship on mercury with the EPA.
They are interested in formalizing the cooperation through a written
instrument. They indicated that the draft Letter of Cooperation
provided by EPA earlier in the year could be helpful in developing
such an instrument. However, the Ministry insists on an instrument
that has a scope and focus based on the guidance issued by CONAMA.


5. (SBU) The MMA officials stated that CONAMA in June published its
guidance, called a "mocao," on dealing with mercury. An informal
translation of this guidance is provided in paragraph 9 below. This
guidance recognizes the problems associated with mercury and also
that it represents a global challenge. The guidance calls for the
development of a national policy on mercury, which MMA is currently
working on and hopes to get out early in 2008. The MMA would like a
cooperative relationship, and a written instrument that corresponds
to this guidance, which is expected to be reflected in the national
policy. Within this ambit, the MMA officials appeared flexible
about the format and type of instrument, whether a memorandum of
understanding or a letter of cooperation or something else.

ITAITUBA PROJECT

6. (SBU) The guidance speaks of promoting "mercury-free
alternatives for the small scale gold mining sector" rather than
low-mercury alternatives. MMA mercury specialist Egler told ESTH
Counselor at a meeting on December 11 that "mercury-free" mining
methods were being tested in Colombia, but they were not being used
in Brazil. Post understands that the ongoing EPA project on mercury
in gold shops in the city of Itaituba, in the northern state of
Para, focuses on reducing the use of mercury, not on piloting
mercury-free alternatives. Addressing mercury use in gold-mining is
critical for MMA because, according to a 2004 study, 67.3 percent of
the emissions of mercury (or 77.9 tons) came from the gold mining
industry.

7. (SBU) The second part of the message from MMA is that they are
not interested in joining in the EPA project in Itaituba. The
Ministry does not oppose EPA concluding the project and is aware
that it is in its final stage. They might be interested in a new or
broader project that addresses small-scale gold mining. For
whatever reason, MMA officials have repeatedly made clear to Post
that at this stage they are not interested in participating in the
Itaituba project. They say that the project is already in its final
stage and MMA never played an active role in the implementation of
project itself. However, in case EPA plans on having other phases
of the Itaituba project, the Ministry would need a detailed work
plan in advance.

NEXT STEPS

8. (SBU) Post would welcome Washington's advice on how and whether
to respond to the Ministry's expression of interest in cooperation
on mercury.


BRASILIA 00002269 002 OF 003


9. (U) The guidance issued by CONAMA, called a "Mocao," number 085
of June 27, 2007 calls for the Ministry of Environment to create and
implement a national policy concerning mercury. An informal
translation is provided below:

----------------
BEGIN TEXT
-----------------

The National Council for the Environment (CONAMA), in the use
of its attributions and competencies that are permitted under Law
Number 6.938 of August 31, 1981, regulated by Decree Number 99.274
of June 6, 1990 and considering the Council's internal regulations
and what is written in the Process Number 02000.004763/2006-59, and

Considering that metal mercury and its organic compounds are
harmful to the environment and public health, such as methyl mercury
which is a very strong neurotoxin capable of damaging organs such as
brain, kidneys and liver and causes development disorder and
problems in the reproductive system, cognitive disturbances,
speaking and vision problems, causes hearing and walking
difficulties, mental disturbances and death;

Considering that mercury concentrates in the tissue of fishes
becoming stronger and stronger as predator fishes and mammals eat
smaller fishes, reaching toxic levels one million times higher than
in nearby waters;

Considering that the equivalent value of less than
one-fiftieth of a small spoonful of mercury (a drop) deposited in a
lake 20 acres in area, is enough to contaminate the fish in the lake
to the point that they will be inadequate for consumption.

Considering that mercury pollution violates basic human rights
- life, food, pure water, working environments, environmental health
and the rights of indigenous people to preserve their traditional
means of life and food; and that these basic rights are threatened
by compounds from tooth amalgam that contains mercury, vaccines,
seafood and the mercury transference between Brazilian states and
also between rich developed nations and less developed and poorer
nations.

Considering that the level of mercury in the global
environment for the last century has tripled and that the current
mercury concentration in the environment is about to exceed the
limit that can put the population of all continents in danger,
important food sources are already contaminated and children are
being severely exposed due to vaccination in mass programs that
contain thymerosal;

Considering that this alarming growth in mercury pollution,
rarely made public by the media, has raised exponentially the risk
of a dangerous and fatal explosion for all people, as well as for
the wildlife and ecosystems and has threatened for a long time the
safety of fishes as one of the most important sources of proteins in
the world;

Considering that acknowledging the immediate global threat in
September 2002 at the Global Evaluation for Mercury meeting, hosted
by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), 150 specialists
concluded that "there is enough evidence that significant adverse
impacts, in global scale, are taking place and that demands
international action envisioning the reduction of the risk to human
health and the environment, caused by mercury emissions into the
environment";

Considering the fact that in order to avoid this imminent
global crisis on mercury, a concrete and committed international
action should be developed in order to coordinate and harmonize the
action in local, national and regional levels and that international
volunteering and widely desired goals must be urgently established
by all countries of the world, National Council for the Environment
(CONAMA) solicits that:

The Ministry of the Environment together with the other
related Ministries (Education, Health, Work, Cities, Integration,
Exterior Relations, Industry and Commerce, Culture, Science and
Technology, Mines and Energy and others) establish reduction goals
through the elimination of all uses and anthropogenic (human
activity) mercury pollution emissions, the development and
implementation of national and regional national plans that envision
to reduce the use and the elimination of all mercury emissions
through all its means, at the maximum possible extent, in a specific
time period;

BRASILIA 00002269 003 OF 003

The Ministry of Environment develop and promote the creation
of a national inventory in order to calculate and monitor mercury
emissions, sources, uses, imports and exports;

The Ministry of Environment establish and widely publicize
strict control measures for the commercialization (import and
export) of mercury, mercury residues and technologies that utilize
mercury;

The Ministry of Environment establish clear rules for the
destination of existing mercury stocks, including mercury from
electrolytic cells from the production of chlor-alkali, preferably
returning them to the origin country for permanent storage;

The Ministry of Environment officially promote mercury-free
alternatives for the small scale gold mining sector and establish an
effective strategy for the management of mercury as a sub-product
produced by the metal mining industry, including zinc and the
mineral production of gold;

The Ministry of Environment initiateefforts for the country to
implement a legislation that demands the conversion of the use of
hazardous substances contained in electrical equipments and
electronics, battery production, the conversion of the use of
mercury process in chlor-alkali plants; conversion of most of the
production of thermometers and other medical devices that utilize
mercury and minimize the production of other non-electronic
equipment containing mercury.

The Ministry of Environment, together with other Ministries,
not allow products containing mercury or processes that use mercury
that have already been restricted in developed countries to be sent
to our country;

In order to accomplish all these goals, the Ministry shall
elaborate and implement a National Policy for Mercury that involves
the commitment of all federal, state and municipal level
governments, civil society and the private sector;

The National Policy for Mercury of the Brazilian government
shall include a requirement for the National Council for the
Environment (CONAMA) to reestablish the Working Group for
Fluorescent Lamps, so that the country can have, as soon as
possible, a legal frame so that the environmental management of the
production chain, consumption and adequate destination of these
products that have mercury, as well as the research of mercury free
technology;

In accordance with the internal regulations of CONAMA, a
presentation, by the Ministry of Environment and the President of
the Technical Chamber for Health, Sanitation and Waste Management
from CONAMA, shall be part of the topics of discussion for the next
CONAMA meeting. The presentation will be on the procedures that are
being adopted in the short, medium and long run so that Brazil
finally has a chemical safety policy for mercury.

MARINA SILVA
President of the Council

----------------
END TEXT
----------------

SOBEL

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