Research Handbook on International Marine Environmental Law
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Research Handbook on International Marine Environmental Law

Edited by Rosemary Rayfuse

This authoritative Handbook examines the current state and the future needs of international law in addressing the key activities that pose threats to the marine environment. Its chapters explore the legal framework for protection of the marine environment, pollution of the marine environment, seabed activities and the marine environment, protection of marine biodiversity, regional approaches to the protection of the marine environment and climate change and the marine environment. Each chapter goes beyond a survey of existing law to identify the shortcomings in the legal regime and areas of critical research needed to address these shortcomings. This book provides significant insights into contemporary issues surrounding the efficacy of the regime created by the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and details the further work needed to ensure the design and implementation of effective regulation and management of human activities that affect the marine environment.
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Chapter 10: Protection and preservation of the marine environment from seabed mining activities on the continental shelf: perspectives from the Pacific Islands region

Marie Bourrel


Over the last half-century metal grades in terrestrial mineral deposits have been decreasing steadily. Due to the progressive increase in metal prices, triggered by growing international demand, which has been accompanied by improved efficiency in mining technologies, extraction of massive low-grade deposits is now becoming economical. These factors have also turned the attention of investors and developers to alternative sources of metals, including the deep sea, as marine deposits often have significantly higher grades. The existence of minerals on the seabed has been known for many years and there have been numerous research cruises in the Pacific region aimed at understanding and documenting these potentially rich deposits. In fact, more mineral deposits have been discovered in the Pacific Ocean than in any other ocean, and it appears that some of the world’s most promising and abundant marine mineral resources are to be found in the Pacific. Three main classes of deep sea minerals have been identified as of economic interest in the Pacific region, namely: sea-floor massive sulphides, manganese nodules, and ferromanganese cobalt-rich crusts. These seabed mineral deposits are composed predominantly of metals such as copper, gold, silver, zinc, lead, cobalt and platinum. Bearing in mind that deep ocean mineral deposits will not replace land-based mining for many countries, recovering such deposits could offer an additional source of raw materials to meet the increasing demand. It is nevertheless worth mentioning that in comparison to land-based mining, seabed mining is relatively new and as a result, raises some concerns with regards to its potential environmental and social impacts.

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