Norway is preparing to open an area of ocean nearly the size of Germany to use for deep-sea mining, as it becomes one of the first countries to extract battery metals from the sea floor. In the race for critical mineral sourcing, Norway wants to get ahead of the curve and is preparing plans to submit to the Norwegian parliament, pending approval.
Polymetallic nodules have been found on the seafloor at depths of around 3,500-6,000m containing base metals used in energy transition technologies including batteries. The nodules contain materials like copper, manganese, nickel sulphate and cobalt sulphate.
Debates over the global impact of deep-sea mining continue
Those that support the expansion of deep-sea mining believe that the action is central to meeting the increasing demand of mineral growth. The demand for copper and rare earth metals is predicted to grow by 40%, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which also expects the demand for nickel, cobalt and lithium to grow by 60%, 70% and 90%, respectively.
Amund Vik, State Secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, told the Financial Times that the government would take “a precautionary approach.” He also stated that deep-sea mining is essential in order to fill the “desperate need for more minerals, rare earth materials to make the transition happen”.
The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, which includes international NGOs such as WWF, Fauna & Flora and Greenpeace have recently called out claims by the Norwegian Prime Minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, that deep-sea mining can be done in a way which does not harm natural diversity in the ocean, as published in Norwegian newspaper Bergens Tidende.
These groups have asked for a pause on deep-sea mining plans as a precaution so that scientists can weigh up the risks that this type of mining may pose to both ecosystems and the global climate.
From a geopolitical perspective, Norway is positioned to spark debate if it agrees to begin mining near the Arctic Circle. The International Seabed Authority, as part of the UN, has the deadline of 9th July to put regulation in place before deep-sea mining will be permitted to begin across the industry.