To prepare for the post-oil era, Norway is plotting its course towards seabed mining

To prepare for the post-oil era, Norway is plotting its course towards seabed mining
To prepare for the post-oil era, Norway is plotting its course towards seabed mining

After making a fortune exploiting oil at the bottom of the North Sea, Norway is preparing its energy transition by developing the extraction of metals essential to the decarbonization of the economy. But these resources are located, like black gold, under the surface of the water and require the use of controversial mining practices. This has not prevented the Kingdom’s authorities from taking a new step towards mining the seabed. They have just demarcated vast marine areas that will be subject to an application for an exploration permit with a view to extracting the metals necessary for carbon neutrality.

“The Ministry of Energy has made a proposal announcing the first licensing round for seabed minerals on the Norwegian continental shelf,” it said on its website in late June. “The proposal defines the areas in which companies will be able to apply for exploitation licenses, so that exploration and knowledge gathering” can begin, it continued in the notice.

Copper, zinc and cobalt

The Norwegian parliament gave the green light to seabed exploration in early 2024, which was seen as a first step towards exploitation. “The world needs minerals for the green transition, and the government wants to examine whether it is possible to extract minerals from the seabed in a sustainable way from the Norwegian continental shelf,” Energy Minister Terje Aasland said in a statement.

In the Norwegian seabed there is said to be copper, zinc and rare earths, resources that are essential to do without fossil fuels. But NGOs and scientists are up in arms against these practices in an area of ​​the world that is still little known, and where the impacts on biodiversity have not yet been documented. For environmentalists, the risks are still too great.

Fantasy

NGOs are not the only ones criticizing the exploitation of the seabed. Several countries, including France and the United Kingdom, but also large companies have spoken out in favor of a moratorium on underwater mining. Even mining companies are very cautious on this subject: there are still enough projects to be developed on land, and moreover much more profitable.

The French group Eramet had conducted research work in the Pacific which proved inconclusive: “The ecological impact remains very difficult to estimate at present. It should potentially be much heavier than on land,” the group had judged at the time. “The technologies are not mature enough to envisage large-scale exploitation and the estimated operating costs would be prohibitive if we are looking for a viable economic model,” Eramet had specified.

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