OSLO – A Norwegian survey has found “significant amounts” of metals and minerals, from copper to rare earths, in the seabed of its extended continental shelf, officials said Friday in their first official assessments.
Norway, a major oil and gas exporter, is considering whether to open its offshore areas to deep-sea mining. The process requires parliamentary approval and has raised environmental concerns.
“Among the metals found in the seabed in the research area, the European Commission’s list of critical minerals includes magnesium, niobium, cobalt, and rare earth minerals,” said the Norwegian Petroleum Agency (NPD), which conducted the study pinion.
A resource assessment covering the marginal areas of the Norwegian Sea and the Greenland Sea showed that 38 million metric tonnes of copper were mined annually, almost twice the world’s total, and 5 million metric tonnes of zinc accumulated in polymetallic sulfides.
Sulfides, or “black smokers,” are found at the mid-ocean ridge, where magma from the earth’s mantle reaches the seabed at a depth of about 3,000 meters.
Approximately 2 million metric tonnes of magnesium, 3.1 million metric tonnes of cobalt, and 1.7 million metric tonnes of rare earth ceria alloys are believed to be present in the bedrock in a crust that has grown over millions of years.
Manganese shells are also estimated to contain other rare earths such as neodymium, yttrium, and dysprosium.
“Important rare minerals such as neodymium and dysprosium are very important for wind turbine magnets and electric vehicles,” the NPD said.
Environmental groups have called on Norway to delay exploration of seabed minerals until more research is done to understand the organisms that live on the seabed and the impact of mining on them.
There is a “great lack of knowledge” about the deep oceans, where new and unknown species can be found, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research said in a consultation letter.
NPD said its assessments showed the resources were “in place” and further research was needed to determine how much could be restored with a reasonable environmental impact.