The Norwegian Government Gives Green Light for Seabed Mineral Activity

A section of a sulphide sample, obtained during the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate’s (NPD) expedition to the Mohns Ridge in the Norwegian Sea in 2020. Photo: Øystein Leiknes Nag, NPD

The Norwegian government proposes to open parts of the Norwegian continental shelf for commercial seabed mineral activities. In addition, the government presents a strategy demonstrating how Norway aims to be a global leader in a fact- and knowledge-based management of seabed mineral resources.

Environmental considerations will be safeguarded throughout the value chain, and extraction will only be permitted if the industry can demonstrate sustainability and responsible practices.

“We need minerals to succeed in the green transition. Currently, the resources are controlled by a few countries, which makes us vulnerable. Seabed minerals can become a source of access to essential metals, and no other country is better positioned to take the lead in managing such resources sustainably and responsibly. Success will be crucial for the world’s long-term energy transition,” says Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Terje Aasland.

Norway has significant anticipated mineral resources on the seabed. If proven to be profitable and extraction can be done sustainably, seabed mineral activities can contribute to value creation and employment in Norway while ensuring the supply of crucial metals for the global energy transition. Extraction of minerals could become a new and important industry for Norway.

“To acquire more knowledge, we need to gather expertise and open for commercial mapping, exploration and extraction of seabed minerals. Therefore, we are proposing to open an area on the Norwegian continental shelf for mineral activities,” says Aasland.

Seabed mineral extraction holds significant future potential for value creation, and the government aims to facilitate value creation and future job opportunities in the ocean industries. Norway has extensive experience in business operations and sustainable management of ocean areas, along with strong research and technology communities associated with the ocean and its resources. This provides a solid foundation for developing profitable seabed mineral activities.

Existing knowledge indicates that mapping, exploration, and closure have minimal environmental impact. Any extraction will only be approved if the rights holder’s recovery plan demonstrates that the extraction can occur in a sustainable and responsible manner.

“Seabed mineral activities are a new industry, both globally and in Norway. Currently, we have limited knowledge about the deep-sea areas where the resources are located. I firmly believe that if the industry identifies resources that they consider economically viable to extract, it will be possible to extract these resources sustainably and responsibly. We will proceed step by step, continue building experience, and base our regulatory framework on facts and knowledge. Environmental considerations will weigh heavily throughout the value chain”, says Aasland.

Background on the opening process

Before an area can be opened for mineral activities, an opening process must be carried out. The opening process was initiated by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy in 2020 and consists of two main parts: an impact assessment process and a resource assessment.

Through the impact assessment process, the potential effects of future seabed mineral activities are examined. The process covers environmental, economic, social, and commercial impacts of such operations and summarizes existing knowledge. As part of the impact assessment, several reports and impact studies have been prepared and compiled.

The impact assessment and the proposal for opening an area on the Norwegian continental shelf were subject to public consultation. The consultation responses can be found on the ministry’s website. The ministry’s assessment of the consultation responses is included as an appendix to the impact assessment.

As part of the opening process, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, which is the ministry’s directorate for seabed minerals, has conducted a resource assessment for the assessment area. The assessment reveals significant expected undiscovered mineral resources on the Norwegian continental shelf, some of which may be extractable. Currently, there is insufficient knowledge of extraction technologies and development solutions to assess potential ore deposits and estimate extraction rates.

 

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