EU to keep tabs on Norway deep sea mining efforts

The area opened to exploration covers about 280,000 square kilometres (108,000 sq. miles), about the size of Ecuador or the state of Nevada. (Image courtesy of Empetre | Flickr Commons.)

The European Union will monitor Norway’s progress in exploring the deep sea bed for potential mining of critical raw materials as the bloc seeks to reduce its dependence on China.

Norway is one of the first countries to formally authorize seabed mining activities in its waters after its parliament backed plans in January to prospect for minerals across 280,000 square kilometers (108,000 square miles) of its Arctic continental shelf.

“We will be attentive to the developments of deep sea mining in Norway and also around the world,” Maros Sefcovic, the bloc’s green deal chief, said at a press briefing. “Norway is one of the countries which is very careful when it comes to the protection of the environment.”

The nation meanwhile signed a memorandum of understanding with the EU on Thursday to develop land-based raw materials and Sefcovic didn’t rule out potential further collaboration in the future.

Sefcovic added that in May the EU would open a call for proposals for prospective mining projects for key raw materials from friendly countries as part of its plans to protect its supply chains during the transition to net zero by the middle of the century.

In trying to shift away from Russia for fossil fuels and China for key raw materials, the EU has boosted its reliance on Norway, which has an abundance of both.

But scientists have condemned sea bed mining and caused for a moratorium, citing a lack of data on its environmental and climate impacts. Jan Christian Vestre, Norway’s trade minister, defended the move.

“We need to extract more minerals for the green and digital transition,” he said. “We’re also talking about our resilience and strategic autonomy. We don’t want to be so dependent on countries from other parts of the world.”

(By John Ainger)


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