Norway moves closer to allowing deep-sea mining

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Norway is set to become the first country in the world to open up its seabed for commercial deep-sea mining.

The move, which is highly contentious, was approved by a parliamentary vote despite numerous warnings from scientists that it could devastate marine life, and opposition from the EU and the UK, both of which have called for a temporary ban on deep-sea mining because of environmental concerns.

The proposal will help to speed up exploration of minerals – including precious metals – that are in high demand for green technologies.

It exposes an area larger than Britain – 280,000 sq km (108,000 sq miles) – to potential mining by companies looking for lithium, scandium and cobalt.

It is anticipated that an agreement on deep-sea mining in international waters could follow later in the year.

Greenpeace said that it was “a shameful day” for Norway.

Norway has long positioned position itself as a leader in terms of the environmental protection of oceans, so this move is seen as being extremely controversial.

Licences will still need parliamentary approval, however, following an amendment added to the original legislation. All deep-sea mining applications will have to be evaluated by the energy department and go back to parliament.

The move comes at a time when the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) has released a report that suggests that deep-sea mining was not needed for clean energy transition.

In fact, it predicted that a combination of a circular economy, new technology and recycling could cut cumulative mineral demand by 58% between 2022 and 2050. The International Seabed Authority is due to meet later this year to finalise rules on deep-sea mining, with a vote expected next year.

In another ‘jarring report’ Norway is also set to allow mining waste to be dumped in its fjords after the government won a court case against environmental organisations trying to block the plan.

Nordic Mining has been given the go-ahead to dispose of 170m tonnes of mining waste at the bottom of the Førde fjord, which critics say will threaten marine life and put biodiversity at risk.

Norway is just one of three countries that still grant new licences for marine waste disposal.