Norway to Begin Deep-Sea Mining in the Arctic


Illustration photo: A pilot vehicle – called a nodule collector – used in deep-sea exploration is lowered into the water in trials conducted by mining group TMC. Photograph: Richard Baron/The Metals Company

The Norwegian Conservative, Labour, Centre, and Progress Parties have agreed on an incremental opening of deep-sea mining in the Arctic.

Norway's minority Labour-led government has struck a deal with two opposition parties to open Arctic oceans to mineral exploration, a key step on the way to full-scale seabed mining, a spokesperson for one of the parties told Reuters on Tuesday.

Despite concerns about environmental impact and international calls for a moratorium, Norway hopes to become the first country to make deep-sea mining happen on a commercial scale and secure critical minerals and jobs.

The amended version of the government's proposal, which parliament will formally debate on 4 January followed by a vote, sets stricter environmental survey requirements during the exploration phase than originally planned.

Parliament will make the final decision on whether to approve full-scale mining based on data obtained from the deep-sea environment during the initial exploration.

A member of parliament for the Conservatives, told Reuters the environmental bar for seabed mining had been set fairly high in the amended proposal.

We believe, and hope, it will become the international standard for this activity, he said. At the same time, it is important that it is a framework that is predictable for commercial players, on which we rely on for these activities.

The area the government wants to open for exploration is 281,000 square kilometres located in the Barents and Greenland Seas.

Environmental spokesperson for the Socialist Left, Lars Haltbrekken, is concerned that the Labour, Centre, Progress, and Conservative Parties have agreed on opening up for deep-sea mining.

It is unfathomable that Norwegian authorities are first in line to destroy the seabed. Environmental researchers have issued strong warnings. We have no idea about the consequences of such operations, and no environmental requirements have been posed for the activity, Haltbrekken told Adresseavisen.