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 A view shows active chimney venting at the Loki's Castle Vent Field on the Arctic Mid-Oceanic Ridge, and white microbial mats can be seen on the chimney at a depth of around 2,500m, in this undated handout picture. University of Bergen, Centre for Deep Sea Research. – Reuters
A view shows active chimney venting at the Loki's Castle Vent Field on the Arctic Mid-Oceanic Ridge, and white microbial mats can be seen on the chimney at a depth of around 2,500m, in this undated handout picture. University of Bergen, Centre for Deep Sea Research. – Reuters

Norway to award Arctic blocks for seabed mining

OSLO: Norway offered on Wednesday large areas of the Arctic region for its inaugural seabed mineral licensing round and aims to award exploration permits during the first half of 2025, the country’s energy ministry said. Norway may become the first country in the world to start commercial deepsea mining, hoping to extract minerals needed for solar panels, wind turbines and electric car batteries needed to replace fossil fuel energy.

“The world needs minerals for the green transition, and the government wants to explore if it is possible to extract seabed minerals in a sustainable manner from the Norwegian continental shelf,” energy minister Terje Aasland said in a statement. The government has previously said preliminary official resource estimates showed substantial accumulations of metals and minerals, ranging from copper to rare earth elements.

In January, the Norwegian parliament voted in favor of opening about 280,000 square kms (108,000 square miles) of ocean areas between Jan Mayen island and the Svalbard archipelago for seabed mineral exploration. The 386 blocks proposed on Wednesday cover about 38 percent of the total area opened by parliament, and the selection was based on industry input, the energy ministry said.

The Norwegian energy ministry published a map showing the proposed offshore blocks (in yellow):

Seabed mining remains controversial, however, and environmentalists are challenging the plans in court. Greenpeace said on Wednesday the proposed blocks constituted a “shockingly large” area given previous warnings from scientists regarding the potential impact on fragile ecosystems.

Seabed mineral exploration plans also face opposition from a number of countries, including France, as well as the European Parliament, that have called for a global moratorium to take more time to better understand the impact on deepsea organisms. The Norwegian government has said the initial exploration stage will have a minimal impact on seabed organisms and that companies will need separate consents before any production can start. — Reuters

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