– Norway will develop the world’s most sustainable mineral industry

On June 21. 2023, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Jan Christian Vestre, presented the Norwegian Government’s mineral strategy. The strategy has five focus areas which aim to ensure that the Norwegian mining industry will become more circular, new mineral projects are implemented faster, there is a clearer emphasis on climate, affected communities and the environment, and international partnerships are strengthened.

Picture of Jan Christian Vestre.
Minister of Trade and Industry, Jan Christian Vestre, presented the mineral strategy on the 21. June 2023. Credit: Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries / David Tvetene.

– This is a big day for Norway as a mineral nation. Metals and minerals are crucial if we are to implement the green and digital transitions, and this strategy is a springboard for developing the world’s most sustainable mineral industry, said Minister of Trade and Industry, Jan Christian Vestre.

– In addition to abundant natural resources, Norway has world-class skills and technology which give us a huge potential to extract, refine and recycle critical minerals. The Norwegian Government will work closely with the industry, parties in the labour market, environmental organisations and local communities to accelerate the pace of the mineral industry, Vestre said.

Five focus areas

In the mineral strategy, the Government presents five focus area for a forward-looking mineral policy.

– Reuse and recycling must be the main rule. However, if we are to succeed with the green and digital transitions, we need to upscale our primary mineral extraction. When we develop new projects, we must ensure that they address environmental and social considerations. Norway must be best in class in terms of sustainability, the Minister said.

In the strategy, the Norwegian Government emphasises that the Norwegian mineral industry must contribute to a more circular economy through increased resource utilisation and by reducing the need for disposal to a minimum. The Government will also consider instruments that help to give profitable projects access to private capital.

– We should utilise the full range of available business policy instruments. We will consider setting up a state-owned mineral company or fund in order to ensure the profitable and sustainable development of critical raw materials projects, Vestre said.

The mineral strategy’s five focus areas

1. Norwegian mineral projects must be implemented faster

Among other things, the Government will:

  • Complete the geophysical surveying of Norway and step up the mapping of critical raw materials.
    Maps of magnetic and other geophysical properties play a key role in interpreting geology and identifying potential deposits. These maps are the starting point of most mineral projects.
  • Introduce “fast-track” and “one-stop shop” schemes.
    The aim of these measures is to reduce processing times and streamline permitting procedures for mineral projects. Designate the Directorate of Mining with the Commissioner of Mines at Svalbard (DMF) as the national competent authority responsible for facilitating and coordinating the processing of applications for critical and strategic metals and minerals projects.
  • Establish a mineral compass.
    This is a tool that will help to provide mineral projects with more knowledge and better guidance on how to implement mineral projects as socially, environmentally and financially sustainably as possible, thus helping to reduce conflicts of interest and improve the predictability of projects.

2.  The Norwegian mineral industry must contribute to the circular economy

Among other things, the Government will:

  • Minimise extractive waste and require projects to present a circular business plan assessing how the extractive waste can be reused. The aim of the measures is to reduce the amount of material that is disposed of, help to utilise resources better and reduce the impact on nature.
  • Require projects to document the necessity of extracting primary resources before they are granted permits for new projects.
  • Appoint an expert committee to propose potential new environmental requirements for waste disposal. The committee will assess the advantages and disadvantages of different types of extractive waste disposal in light of the development of new technologies, new methods and new international nature and environmental initiatives, and consider the future use of submarine tailings disposal.

3. The Norwegian mineral industry must become more sustainable

Among other things, the Government will:

  • Adopt a zero vision for the use of chemicals that are not environmentally certified.
  • Aim for all new machinery to be zero-emission by 2030.
  • Establish better dialogue, early involvement and an indigenous compensation scheme extending beyond Finnmark.

4. Private capital is a prerequisite for profitable and sustainable mineral projects

Among other things, the Government will:

  • Mobilise private capital and mitigate risks through the Green Industrial Initiative.
  • Consider establishing a state-owned mineral company or fund.
  • Consider possible economic and business policy measures to stimulate increased extraction, improve sustainability and value creation for local communities.

5. International partnerships. Norway will continue to be a stable supplier of raw materials for green value chains

Among other things, the Government will:

  • Market Norway as a mineral nation.
  • Strengthen cooperation with the EU and European countries on access to raw materials and robust value chains.
  • Work to strengthen Nordic cooperation within the framework of common sustainable value chains.

⇒ Read the mineral strategy here.

The Norwegian Government’s Roadmap for the Green Industrial Initiative sets the course for a green industry offensive. The goal is to create value and well-paid jobs all over the country, increase green investment, increase exports from the mainland and cut greenhouse gases on the journey towards a low-emission society.

In the Roadmap, access to critical metals and minerals is absolutely vital. The Government’s view is that the mineral industry can make significant contributions to the energy transition and help safeguard critical value chains.

Every three years, the EU publishes a list of raw materials deemed to be critical to European industry. The list includes metals and minerals that are financially or strategically important for the European economy and are also exposed to a high supply risk.

Critical raw materials are defined as raw materials:

  • for which there are few or no substitutes,
  • that are strategically important and associated with significant supply risk,
  • that are concentrated at the extraction, processing or refining stages,
  • for which supply disruptions will have significant economic or strategic consequences.

What are considered critical raw materials will vary significantly between countries, depending on their own needs, domestic production and international factors, their ownership in and agreements with mineral producers, trade policy frameworks and other cooperation between countries on access to raw materials etc.

Critical raw materials can include both upstream and midstream products. This means mineral concentrates ‘straight from the mine’, as well as products for industrial processing. For many metals, the supply is sufficient and the risk of supply shortages is low in international markets.

Norway is an important supplier of raw materials to the EU, USA, United Kingdom and other countries. The following raw materials are produced or refined in Norway and are deemed critical by the EU, USA or other recipient countries: Aluminium, nickel, cobalt, copper, titanium minerals, manganese alloys, zinc, graphite, rare earth elements, platinum group metals, high-purity quartz, and silicon products.

Strategically and geopolitically important

Mineral extraction and the production of metals are not only important to the establishment of green Norwegian and European value chains, but also to Norway’s role as a strategic partner.

– The fact that major supply chains for critical raw materials are concentrated in individual countries such as China represents a challenge to allied security. It is therefore essential that we help to secure access to essential minerals and metals for ourselves, our allies and our partners. Norway is already an important supplier of many critical raw materials, and our ambition is to be a stable and long-term supplier of minerals for the green transition, the Minister said.

30 million for the mineral strategy

NOK 30 million has already been allocated to follow up the mineral strategy. The funding is intended to help further develop Norway’s potential and facilitate a more sustainable mineral industry through more mapping and research initiatives.

– We need our mineral resources to be more extensively mapped. Environmental and social sustainability, technology and the circular economy are areas for which knowledge and research are needed. So far, we have allocated an additional NOK 30 million to address these issues, Jan Christian Vestre said.