Norwegian Seabed Mining Proposal Approved

This past week, Norway’s parliament “considered the government’s proposal for opening an area for mineral activities on the Norwegian continental shelf.” The country, which borders both the North and Norwegian seas, hopes to pioneer deep-sea mining, as it has the potential to be the first to do so. Though some private companies outside of Norway already participate in deep-sea mining, Norway would be the first to allow it nationally. The main reason behind this decision is the push toward a greener Europe. Minerals on the sea floor, such as lithium and cobalt, would be used in making electric car batteries, seen as a more sustainable counterpart to cars that run on gasoline.

The government emphasizes that this process will take time. Mining will begin after some time; a process will include research, mapping the ocean floor, ensuring that any action will follow any international law, etc. As such, deep-sea mining is estimated to begin sometime in the 2030s. Norway’s minister of energy, Tarje Aasland, hopes “for Norway to contribute to meeting the great global demand for minerals in a responsible manner.” This approval will explore over 280,000 km2 (over 104,000 mi2) of Norwegian seabed.

Ironically, those who disapprove of the proposal do so with environmental concerns. Many Norwegian institutes, such as the Norgewian Environmental Agency, explicitly advised against this. According to various scientific bodies, the mining itself would harm organisms on the sea floor. Helena Hauss of the independent Norwegian Research Center states “that the proposed mining sites, which are like islands — inhabited by communities not found elsewhere — will be irreversibly destroyed.” Despite Norway not being a member state, the EU has also come out against this new proposal, writing that “..the risk of such activity to marine biodiversity and the acceleration of climate change.”

In any case, this proposal and the overall issue regarding the deep-sea mining of minerals present a Catch-22 in terms of green policies. To appear as transitioning to more environmentally friendly policies, the Norwegian government has done the exact opposite.