By Kazuhiro Igarashi
Nomura Kohsan (Tokyo), the sole mercury waste management company in Japan, is advocating the importance of and providing technological support for proper mercury management through a booth it is running at the first conference for Minamata Convention signatory states held in Geneva, Switzerland. The Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury, entered into force on 16 August 2017, which is expected to accelerate safe processing of the toxic metal. “We hope to become the global leader with Japan’s technology,” says a Nomura representative.
Nomura was founded in 1973 using an abandoned mercury mine in Hokkaido. Recently, it has partnered with the Environment Ministry in its experimental study to develop a solidification technique to reliably dispose of solidified mercury made by causing a chemical reaction with sulfur.
Although the extracted mercury is mainly exported overseas, the convention will control both imports and exports of the metal by 2020. From around 2010, Nomura has been collecting waste containing mercury, such as florescent lamps, from Japanese companies with a presence in other Asian countries, as the world becomes more environmentally aware. It has helped Asian countries since 2015 including the Penang government of Malaysia introduce mercury processing technologies and know-how.
The challenge is that many emerging economies have little awareness about the necessity of properly processing toxic waste. Nomura has collected some 300 tons of mercury-tainted waste from overseas. This is a mere 1% of the 27,000 tons it collects in total, including Japan. “There aren’t very many foreign companies that processes mercury. We want to lead the way in mercury disposal as a country that experienced the mercury poisoning disease,” says Yutaka Ichihashi, an executive of Nomura.