Norway becomes first country to back controversial deep sea mining | Climate News

Norway becomes first country to back controversial deep sea mining | Climate News

Norway becomes first country to back controversial deep sea mining | Climate News

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Controversial deep sea mining is one step closer to reality as Norway approved the practice in a parliamentary vote, sparking furious outcry from environmental campaigners.

The move opens up Norway’s seabed to heavy machinery that would scrape it for metals and minerals including magnesium, niobium, cobalt.

Such materials are in demand to feed the world’s growing appetite for technology like smartphones, and for equipment vital for a more climate-friendly future, such as electric vehicles, batteries and solar panels.

But the decision puts Norway at odds with environmentalists and scientists, who warn of “catastrophic” consequences for marine life, and with neighbours the EU and the UK, which backs a moratorium.

Norway’s parliament on Tuesday voted in favour of allowing Arctic seabed mineral exploration, as the country hopes to become the first to launch deep-sea mining on a commercial scale.

It exposes an area larger than the size of the UK – 280sq km – on the Norwegian continental shelf in the Arctic, stretching as far north as Svalbard.

Officials have not yet set out a timeline for starting exploration, but it adds further momentum to the industry.

“We’re now going to see if this can be done in a sustainable manner, and that is the step we have taken now,” energy minister Terje Aasland told parliament.

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Should the deep sea be mined?

Kaja Lønne Fjærtoft, global policy lead for WWF’s No Deep Seabed Mining Initiative, called the decision a “catastrophe for the ocean”.

“The deep sea is the world’s largest carbon reservoir and our last untouched wilderness, with unique wildlife and important habitats that do not exist anywhere else on Earth,” she said.

Greenpeace activist Amanda Louise Helle called it “devastating”.

More than 800 scientists have signed an open letter in support of a pause on deep sea mining, warning of potentially “irreversible” damage to the ecosystem.

Read more:
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Martin Webeler from the Environmental Justice Foundation said the demand for critical minerals can be satisfied by better recycling of products such as single-use vapes, which contain copper, and other e-waste, like old phones.

He said: “Why should we expand destructive mining to one of Earth’s most pristine and important ecosystems, almost certainly wiping out undiscovered species and with unknown impacts over a huge stretch of ocean, when we are sitting on such a goldmine already?”

Dan Marks, research fellow at UK-based defence and security thinktank RUSI, said European policymakers “face a conundrum when it comes to critical minerals”.

He described an “imperative” to expand supply to support the energy transition and compete with producers linked with China.

But there is also a “desire to avoid saving the climate at the expense of the environment”, he said.

He warned European regulators would have to strike a balance between setting protecting the natural world and setting standards so high that the practice became unviable and was therefore “offshored to countries with weaker protections”.



Norway becomes first country to back controversial deep sea mining | Climate News

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