Norway to Begin Deep-Sea Mining Exploration in the Arctic


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Norway-moves-to-open-Germany-sized-area-of-its-seabed-to-mining-mapOn January 9, the Norwegian Parliament voted in favor of exploring the Arctic for deep-sea minerals. The approved region includes over 280,000 sq km—nearly the size of Italy. For now, this only approves exploration, not exploitation.

This proposal to exploit the Arctic for deep-sea mining goes against all scientific recommendations, including that of the Norwegian Environmental Agency, cautioning against “significant and irreversible consequences for the marine environment.”

While this still signals Norway’s interest in proceeding with exploitation at some point, Parliament will be required to vote again before allowing any deep-sea mining activity to begin. For any international activities, they will have to also go through the International Seabed Authority (ISA)—the governing body responsible for monitoring and regulating deep-sea activity, with a particular emphasis on deep-sea mining.

Initially, Norway's exploration efforts will involve collecting information regarding the metals in the Arctic seabed and conducting research on what harm large-scale mining might have on the ecosystems.

GP0STZ5IM-1"For too long, we have treated the ocean as an endless dumping ground for human waste and taken life underwater for granted. It is deeply worrying that Norway wants to bring yet another extractive industry into one of the most vulnerable ecosystems on Earth," said SOA Deep Sea Mining Europe Lead, Anne-Sophie Roux, who was on site in front of Parliament following the verdict.

"The only silver lining of today is that the first extraction licenses must be passed through Parliament. The fight for the ocean continues."


Why This Matters

This decision is diametrically opposed to the image of a 'climate leader' that Norway claims to be on the global stage, with the country's continuous greenwashing policies, fossil fuel production, commercial whaling practices, and now, its interest towards deep-sea mining. Opening the Arctic to this damaging practice could also create a dangerous precedent in international waters by triggering deep-sea mining activities while robust scientific data and regulations are lacking.

"The parliament’s decision to move forward with seabed mining against all expert advice, with an impact assessment that has been widely criticised, is a catastrophe for the ocean, and leaves a big stain on Norway’s reputation as a responsible ocean nation," said Kaja Lønne Fjærtoft, Global Policy Lead for WWF’s No Deep Seabed Mining Initiative.

Norway’s plans for deep-sea mining have been subject to substantial international criticism. The EU Commission has expressed strong concern about the environmental impact of the plans, and 119 European parliamentarians have written an open letter to the Norwegian Parliament asking them to vote against deep-sea mining. Even former Norwegian Prime Minister, Thorbjørn Jagland, joined the call for the moratorium and condemned Norway's current position in favor of deep-sea mining.

"We humans have partially plundered the earth's surface and pumped up oil and gas to such an extent that the planet's climate and nature are on the verge of collapse," said  Mr. Jagland. "I don't need any scientific research to understand that we can't do the same on the seabed. We must get an international treaty that protects the seabed."

The Role of Activism

Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) has been on the frontlines of this fight, working directly with parliamentarians, NGOs, and scientists to keep mining companies and commercial operations out of the Arctic—and we will continue to mobilize youth, raise public awareness, and express our concern for how this threat would affect our collective future.

GP0STZ5IPThanks to you and ocean advocates around the world, this campaign reached over 25 million people around the globe regarding the decisions of a country of 5 million people and secured half a million signatures calling on Norway to abandon its plans for deep-sea mining. These signatures were handed over to parliamentarian Marianne Sivertsen Næss outside of Parliament following the January 9 vote.

Because of this international pressure, the Norweigan Parliament changed its proposition to only vote for the exploration phase for deep-sea mining—not exploitation.

The numbers speak for themselves: the world is watching, and activism works.

What Comes Next

While we are celebrating the partial win of halting Norway’s exploitation plans, this fight isn’t over. 

The approved exploration phase will still have an invasive impact on marine ecosystems in the Arctic that we still know so little about.

Therefore, SOA and our partners urge Norway to abandon its plans to mine, and instead, join the growing group of 24 countries, hundreds of NGOs800+ marine science & policy experts37 global financial institutions, and more that are saying no to deep-sea mining—national and international.

If Norway decides to push forward with deep-sea mining, we will use all the tools we have at our disposal to prevent this from happening.

DSM Tracker (Blog)

On the international front, this March, the ISA will begin its 29th Session to continue negotiating deep-sea mining regulations and the mining code.

RELATED | RECAP: ISA 28th Session

If adopted, the mining code would open the fragile ocean to deep-sea mining and pave the way for an inherently damaging extractive activity to begin with sparse scientific understanding and harmful operational practices. Rather than adopting the mining code, SOA and our partners are advocating that the best way forward is a moratorium on deep-sea mining. 

Come March, SOA will continue our efforts on the ground as formal Observers of the ISA to provide firsthand critical updates from the meetings with insight into what is being discussed, negotiated, and agreed upon. 

Keep up with what is happening at the ISA 29th Session with Deep Sea Conservation Coalition's ISA Negotiations Tracker

How YOU Can Help

If you’re ready to take action, here are a few steps you can take to prevent deep-sea mining:

Additional Resources:

Recent SOA Publications: 

Recap: Advocating for Deep-Sea Protection in 2023

Linkedin Live — Deep Sea Dialogues: Reflections from the 2023 ISA Meetings with SOA's Youth Delegates 

Monaco Announces Official Position Against Deep-Sea Mining

Update on Deep-Sea Mining and the Fight for a Global Moratorium

About Deep-Sea Mining:

About Deep-Sea Mining by Deep Sea Conservation Coalition

What Is Deep-Sea Mining and Why Does It Matter? by SOA Founder & CEO Daniela V. Fernandez

Recent Articles and Research Discoveries: 

Environmental Justice Foundation: Critical Minerals and the Green Transition: Do We Need to Mine the Deep Seas? 

Greenpeace: Activists United Against Norway's Plan for Deep-Sea Mining

Blue Climate Initiative: Next Generation EV Batteries Eliminate the Need for Deep-Sea Mining

Nature Journal: To engage in deep-sea mining or not to engage: what do full net cost analyses tell us?


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