In 2004, a specific need for data on mercury use in South America was indicated by the United Nations Environmental Programme-Chemicals (UNEP-Chemicals) at a workshop on regional mercury pollution that took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mercury has long been mined and used in South America for artisanal gold mining and imported for chlor-alkali production, dental amalgam, and other uses.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) provides information on domestic and international mercury production, trade, prices, sources, and recycling in its annual Minerals Yearbook mercury chapter. Therefore, in response to UNEP-Chemicals, the USGS, in collaboration with the Economic Section of the U.S. Embassy, Lima, has herein compiled data on Peru's exports, imports, and byproduct production of mercury. Peru was selected for this inventory because it has a 2000-year history of mercury production and use, and continues today as an important source of mercury for the global market, as a byproduct from its gold mines. Peru is a regional distributor of imported mercury and user of mercury for artisanal gold mining and chlor-alkali production.
Peruvian customs data showed that 22 metric tons (t) of byproduct mercury was exported to the United States in 2006. Transshipped mercury was exported to Brazil (1 t), Colombia (1 t), and Guyana (1 t). Mercury was imported from the United States (54 t), Spain (19 t), and Kyrgyzstan (8 t) in 2006 and was used for artisanal gold mining, chlor-alkali production, dental amalgam, or transshipment to other countries in the region. Site visits and interviews provided information on the use and disposition of mercury for artisanal gold mining and other uses.
Peru also imports mercury-containing batteries, electronics and computers, fluorescent lamps, and thermometers. In 2006, Peru imported approximately 1,900 t of a wide variety of fluorescent lamps; however, the mercury contained in these lamps, a minimum of approximately 76 kilograms (kg), and in other products such as batteries and computer electronics is not recycled and may ultimately be released to the environment.