Norway gives green light for seabed minerals

On 9 January, the Norwegian parliament (Storting) considered the government's proposal for opening an area for mineral activities on the Norwegian continental shelf. With the parliament’s decision, the basis is now laid for a gradual and responsible development of seabed minerals, based on a precautionary approach.

’An opening initially means that industrial players can be awarded licenses to map and explore for minerals in a limited area, not to extract. There is a need to gather more knowledge and to investigate whether it is possible to proceed with extraction in a responsible and sustainable manner’, said Minister of Energy, Terje Aasland.

Before any potential extraction can be permitted, more knowledge is needed. Any plans for extraction must be approved by both the ministry and the Norwegian parliament (Storting). Plans will only be approved if extraction can be done in a sustainable and responsible manner.

The world needs minerals in the transition to a low-emission society. Today, the extraction of minerals is largely concentrated in a few countries or among a few companies, with varying degrees of political, social and environmental risks. The government will explore the opportunities for Norway to contribute to meeting the great global demand for minerals in a responsible manner.

’The geopolitical development underlines the importance of securing the supply of important minerals and metals from multiple sources, and from countries with stable and democratic governance, with proper rights and safety for workers. We are adopting a gradual, knowledge-based approach where environmental considerations will play an important part’, said Minister Aasland.

Several actors have expressed their concern about knowledge gaps related to the opening of areas for minerals activities. The Ministry of Energy emphasizes that profitability, sustainability and safety are prerequisites for extraction, and must be documented in extraction plans, including an impact assessment process.

’I understand the concern for the lack of knowledge about the sea and the seabed. There is valuable nature on the seabed, and we will gain more knowledge about this when we explore and map more thoroughly. An opening of an area does not mean that extraction starts. Rather, it represents the first of many steps along the way, where all parts of the process are based on a precautionary approach. We have solid experience from technologically world-leading and prudent offshore operations. This makes Norway well-positioned to succeed. Norway will at all times ensure that the seabed mineral activity is in line with our international obligations, including the Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Convention on Biological Diversity’, said Minister Aasland.

The Ministry of Energy will start the process of announcing areas for applications and awarding extraction licenses in 2024.