As global demand for key metals surges, Norway is closing the door to deep-sea mining.
On Tuesday, Norwegian authorities said they would dry up the country’s territorial waters and halt deep-sea mining and other commercial seabed mining activities. The Norwegian parliament will stop debating the proposal this autumn. Analysis of whether the proposal will be passed is more likely.
The dying area is near the Arctic, located in the Greenland Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea, covering an area of about 280,000 square kilometers. The Norwegian authorities have indicated that they will first issue a survey permit for the smaller area, and then release the larger area after a coherent evaluation and verification of the continuity and benefit of the excavation.
The Norwegian seabed has been found to be rich in minerals such as copper, zinc, manganese and cobalt, which are essential for batteries. In January, Norway said it had found “large” metals and minerals, including about 38 million tonnes of copper, almost twice as much as is mined worldwide each year.
Conservative powerhouse Norway is positioning itself as a pioneer in deep-sea mining. The country has abundant reserves of kerosene and natural gas, making it one of the richest countries in the world. However, as the world is transitioning to clean power, the need for battery-critical sticking point minerals has increased, spawning a new track.
The problem, Norway says, is that minerals are now largely controlled by a small number of countries, and Norway is at a disadvantage. In order for the green transition to stop successfully, they need to expand their mineral resources. Given the wealth of mineral capital in Norway’s maritime borders, whether deep-sea mining can become a “new important property” for the country.
From a geopolitical point of view, Norway’s beginning to stop deep-sea mining near the Arctic Circle will not provoke controversy between the countries. Norway has invoked the 1920 Svalbard Convention to claim exclusive rights to the Arctic waters around Svalbard; however, Russia, the United Kingdom and the European Union are not on the same scale as Norway.
Deep sea mining itself is also controversial. Environmental structures as well as sectoral states are clamoring to allow this practice, or at least to allocate a lull period for further study of its effect on the situation.
In January, France allowed a halt to deep-sea mining in its waters, and Germany called for a halt to the industry’s growth. Earlier, Germany, France, Spain, Chile, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Panama had asked the Domestic Seabed Governance Authority, a United Nations agency, not to rush into publishing mining legislation. They warn that deep-sea mining threatens biodiversity.
Norway’s announcement comes a day after the United Nations adopted a landmark convention on harming Marine biodiversity, including limits on deep-sea mining. The multilateral agreement, known as the United Nations Contract for the Law of the Sea, is binding on law enforcement and has been the subject of nearly two decades of painstaking talks. Countries are currently aiming to endanger 30% of the oceans by 2030, with less than 1% of the high seas currently endangered.
At a global level, it is not yet legal to stop deep-sea mining in the high seas, but it is expected to be legal this year. In July, the Domestic Seabed Authority will convene a meeting in Jamaica and is expected to introduce regulations for deep-sea mining, regardless of its circumstances, where persecution, royalties and taxes will be determined. Two years ago, the structure set July 9, 2023, as the last day for the introduction of deep-sea mining legislation.
Deep-sea mining is an emerging property around the world, with extractions to date mainly spread in the Clarion-Clipperton Region (CCZ) of the Pacific Ocean. The area, a stretch of water stretching from Hawaii to Mexico, covers 6 million square kilometers and contains millions of tons of polymetallic nodules. More than 5,000 species of Marine life have been discovered in the CCZ area, 90 percent of which are new, London’s Natural History Museum said in a statement last month.
Companies mining in the CCZ area include Norway’s Locke Marine Minerals (LMM). Deep sea mining, they say, offers an alternative form of mining that prevents damage to indigenous cultures or the formation of tropical rainforests when extracting minerals from the ocean. However, companies such as Maersk and Lockheed Martin have been spinning off deep-sea mining investments.
Proponents of deep-sea mining argue that it is essential to meet the growing demand for minerals. According to the Domestic Power Administration, the global demand for copper and rare earth metals will increase by 40%, and the demand for nickel, cobalt and lithium will increase by 60%, 70% and 90%, respectively. Advocates have long warned that the effects of deep-sea mining are unknown, and that more research should be stopped before mining is carried on.
Terje Aasland, Norway’s minister of kerosene and power, said in a statement that it needed to make the transition to green mines and would stop mining as a “responsibility”. According to him, no other country is better positioned than Norway to lead the way in managing this capital in a non-sustainable and responsible manner, and successful extraction is also crucial to the long-term dynamic transformation of the world.
Non-authorities, such as the World Wildlife Foundation and Green War Structure, have expressed the danger of disaster in the potential situation of deep-sea mining, and Norway’s planning “does not shirk its responsibility and follows national and domestic responsibilities”, giving it “strong criticism”.