Arctic Marine Ecosystem is Endangered by Norway


Photo: Activists protesting near the Storting on January 9, 2024 against deep-sea exploration and mining on the Norwegian continental shelf

The Chinese media agency reports that as soon as the Norwegian government received parliamentary approval earlier this year, Norway became the first country in the world to allow commercial deep-sea mining. The government plans to start issuing licenses to companies to mine the Arctic seabed in 2025. It is also preparing citizens to approve such practices via public consultations and other necessary activities.

The Norwegian government's proposal to allow exploration and mining in its Arctic waters, which spans about 280,000 square kilometers, reflects Norway's intent to tap into the Arctic vast resources. On the first stage approximately 40% of this territory will be explored and mined. The Norwegian continental shelf covers an area of more than two million square kilometres (2 039 951 km2), thus the mined territory is 13,7%. The officials stressed that any plans for deep-sea mining must first be approved by the Ministry of Energy and the Norwegian Parliament.

Norway's Petroleum and Energy Minister Terje Åsland says that mining licenses are expected to be issued in the first half of next year.

The world needs minerals to transition to a green economy, and the government hopes to explore whether seabed minerals can be extracted sustainably from the Norwegian continental shelf,” citing the Nordic country’s “long-term experience” in managing marine resources, the Minister noted.

Some analysts point out that onshore mining alone is not enough to meet the growing demand for rare metals in various countries. Coupled with a further increase in demand for minerals due to the energy transition, governments need to consider options for extracting minerals from the seabed at depths of 800 to 6,000 meters, which could yield some base and rare earth metals, as well as small amounts of gold and silver.

The concerns raised by environmental and fishing groups regarding government’s permission to conduct deep-sea mining are significant. These groups argue that deep-sea mining could have detrimental effects on marine ecology. The European Parliament has also expressed concern about this. Although Norway is not a member of the EU, European Commission Vice-President Maros Šefčović said the EU will monitor Norway's procedures for opening up deep-sea mining.

Despite the country’s commitment to advancing only sustainable and responsible mining plans, the environmentalists have questioned the approval process. Their arguments against deep-sea mining are centered on possibly irreversible impacts on marine ecosystems. They advocate for a more sustainable approach that prioritizes the recycling and reuse of already extracted minerals.

The Environmental Justice Foundation mentioned in its report that an additional 16,000 tons of cobalt could be recycled each year by improving cell phone recycling alone. It is about 10% of the world's annual production.

Source: Std.stheadline