The Storting (Norwegian parliament) approved on Tuesday the Government’s proposal to open parts of the Norwegian continental shelf to seabed mineral exploration, despite environmental groups and the fishing industry’s warnings that the move would risk the biodiversity of vulnerable ecosystems.
The bill, voted in by 80-20 by lawmakers, allows the exploration of around 280,000 sq km (108,000 sq miles) of Arctic seabed. A final resolution will be made in the form of a Royal Decree.
While the decision will initially apply to Norwegian waters, it will expose an area larger than the UK to potential mining by companies, which will be able to apply for licences to mine minerals. Besides, it is anticipated that an agreement on deep-sea mining in international waters could follow later in the year.
An energy department source said that deep-sea mining had in essence been approved, but it was yet to approve any companies to do so. Deep-sea mining applications will have to be evaluated by the energy department and go back to parliament.
Norway aims to diversify its economy away from fossil fuels. However, it puts the country at odds with the EU and the UK, which have called for a temporary ban on the practice due to the concerns about environmental effects.
Among the resources available on the Norwegian continental shelf, so-called sulfide crusts may contain as much as 45 million metric tonnes of zinc, while manganese crusts may have around 3 million metric tonnes of cobalt, according to a white paper released by the government last June.
Source: Glacier Media Group