Norway breaks ground as first nation to approve deep-sea mining

Nod to deep-sea mining sparks global concerns. Image: Shutterstock/Hermann Viria

IN a historic move, Norway has become the first country to approve commercial-scale deep-sea mining, passing a bill in its Parliament on January 9. The legislation aims to accelerate the search for minerals crucial for green technologies, including electric vehicle batteries. This decision permits exploration in approximately 280,000 square metres of the country’s national waters, equivalent to the size of Italy, situated in the Arctic between Svalbard, Greenland, and Iceland.

What Lies Beneath: Minerals and Green Technology

While the Norwegian government asserts caution, Energy Minister Terje Aasland emphasised the need for sustainable practices. Critics, however, argue that the uncharted territory of deep-sea mining poses severe risks to marine life and carbon storage in the ocean, necessitating further research before extraction.

Deep on the seafloor lie nodules and metal crusts containing minerals like cobalt and zinc, essential for renewable energy technologies. Norway sees this move as a strategic shift away from the oil and gas industry, aiming to become a major mineral producer and support green technologies.

Environmental Concerns and Warnings

Environmentalists, scientists, and fishery organisations have voiced concerns, with more than 800 marine experts from 44 countries calling for a pause on deep-sea mining plans. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature warns of potential irreversible damage to biodiversity and ecosystems, while a recent study hinted at the adverse effects on marine species.

Global Criticism and Backlash

Norway’s decision faces international backlash, with the EU and the UK advocating for a temporary ban over environmental concerns. Critics argue that alternatives such as recycling electronic waste could meet mineral demands. The fear is that Norway’s move could set a precedent, influencing ongoing negotiations to open international waters to deep-sea mining, a prospect opposed by over 30 countries but supported by others like China and Japan.

As the world watches, the repercussions of Norway‘s decision may extend beyond its borders, influencing global attitudes towards deep-sea mining in the coming years.

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Written by

Catherine McGeer

I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!