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Law of the sea, Blue economy, Sustainability, Marine mineral resources

 

Abstract

The Macerata-based RU will deal with the “Sustainable use of marine mineral resources”. With the development of our societies and the gradual enhancement of science and information technology, marine science and technology have gradually strengthened, and the marine economy is playing an increasingly important role in the national economy of coastal States. Although it can promote the development of national economy, exploitation of marine mineral resources is an increasing environmental problem for marine ecosystems. The severe destruction of marine ecosystem will be a great challenge to the survival and development of human beings, the exploitation and utilization of marine resources have to be carried out reasonably to guarantee a favourable living environment for biodiversity. However, despite prioritization of this issue at a global level and although much research has been undertaken on the environmental consequences of mining activities, there is a lack of analysis evaluating the need for an improved legal framework for this type of exploitation. It now seems necessary to provide a different approach for actions to protect the marine environment relating to the use of marine mineral resources. Indeed, the paradigm of reference of national policies has changed: in developing and utilizing marine resources, a State should adhere to the concept of marine ecological protection and establish a low-carbon model of marine development for improving the competitiveness of the national economy internationally. For these reasons, societal expectations are claiming higher standards for acceptance of mineral mining activities, particularly with regard to environmental protection and strengthening of the national economy. The use of marine mineral resources could represent an important and complex business also in Italy, nevertheless rather little legislation has been adopted on those areas at national level. While national legal framework has its source in some EU legal acts, such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, there is no international rules regulating the exploitation of marine mineral resources and the lack of clear and precise international law leads to unsustainable use of those resources. Thus, the protection of the marine environment necessitates new types of legal tools for the relevant areas, such as the recognition of new specific environmental crimes, the instauration of marine protected areas or the compulsory decommissioning of offshore oil and gas installations. In Italy, the establishment of the EEZ could be the opportunity to be seized to define this new legal framework and its administrative procedures. The main task of the Research Unit will be to adopt both qualitative and quantitative means for data collection and content analysis of current legal developments in this regard. Therefore, the Research Unit aims to discuss practices and contributions Italy has made concerning the protection of the marine environment on the basis of the ecosystem approach in the context of the exploitation of marine mineral resources and in relation to Italy's contribution to the work of the International Sea-Bed Authority. The focus then will turn to the analysis of Italian law regarding the exploitation of mineral resources in its continental shelf and areas beyond the 12-nautical miles, in order to respond to new environmental challenges. To this end, some lessons could be drawn from other State practices. An important step of this research will be the analysis of current situation concerning national marine disaster reduction capacity for mineral mining activities. An effective and innovative policy of exploitation and use of marine resources needs a comprehensive method to evaluate marine disaster risk and a national disaster risk reduction and management plan (including pre-disaster defense, disaster monitoring, warning, emergency response, post-disaster restoration, and reconstruction). In Italy, the current Prime Minister's Decree n. 66/2008 establishing the national platform for disaster risk reduction makes no clear reference to mining activities at sea. There is also little attention paid to this issue at the EU level, with the exception of the adoption of the Directive UE/30/2003 on safety of offshore oil and gas operations. States need to design suitable instruments to involve all the relevant stakeholders in a participative public debate as to how to best manage the sustainable development of maritime space. For this reason, the Research Unit aims to suggest an innovative national policy that embraces the development of a legal framework and encourage cooperation and knowledge sharing among different industrial sectors and between industry and research, improving the basic knowledge on the issue, to realise the sustainability of marine ecosystem as part of the Goal 14 of SDG (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development).

 

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