Politicians debated marine minerals at an event during Arendalsuka. Left-right: Ola Elvestuen, Marius Arion Nilsen and Heidi Nordby Lunde.

Norway could become the first country in the world to allow commercial mining of marine minerals. It would not be without controversy.

The Norwegian government has proposed to open parts of the Norwegian Continental Shelf for seabed mineral activities.

“This presents great opportunities for our regional supplier industry. Technology and competence can easily be transferred from oil and gas to seabed mining. Drilling and subsea operations are what we do best,” says Christian von der Ohe, RD&I Manager at GCE NODE.

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.

The proposition will be debated and put to vote by the Norwegian parliament. During Arendalsuka, several political parties came together to discuss the matter. The Progress Party (FrP) is highly supportive of the government’s proposal, the Conservative Party (Høyre) is undecided, whereas the Liberal Party (Venstre) is against the idea.

Norway is believed to have significant quantities of mineral resources. If proven to be profitable and extraction can be done sustainably, marine mineral activities could 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.

If Norway were to become a first mover in this industry, it would be against the advice of the European Union, several global industrial companies and most of the environmental movement, as illustrated by World Wildlife Fund during the debate in Arendal.

“Norway is trying to paint a different picture of the world. The rest of the world, perhaps except for China, says we don’t want marine minerals, and we don’t need marine minerals. We need to listen,” said Karoline Andaur, General Secretary of WWF Norway.

The Norwegian government, however, states that 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,” said Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Terje Aasland, when the government presented their marine minerals proposal.

Karoline Andaur, General Secretary of WWF Norway, urged politicians to not allow the commercial extraction of marine minerals from the seabed. Left: Kenneth Sandmo (LO).