Norway made a historic vote in favor of seabed mining, a highly controversial move that has sparked outrage from scientists and environmental groups.
On Tuesday, the country’s parliament approved a bill to begin exploration for deep-sea mining, despite concerns about the potential threats to biodiversity and the significant disruption of global carbon dynamics it could cause.
The vote affects over 108,000 square miles (280,000 sq km) of seabed in Arctic waters. This expansive area, located between Norway and Greenland, is larger than the United Kingdom, providing ample space for potential drilling operations.
The deep seabed contains a wealth of valuable mineral resources, such as precious metals like gold and silver, metal ores including manganese, nickel, cobalt, and copper, as well as rare earth elements that are integral to the production of electronics.
As the demand for natural resources continues to grow, this vote represents a strategic move to capitalize on the untapped potential of the Arctic’s seabed. However, experts are voicing concerns about the possible disruptive impact that seabed mining in Norway could have on the natural carbon dynamics.
Mining minerals from the ocean floor has the potential to result in the release of sediment plumes, which could disrupt the ability of marine animals to absorb carbon. Additionally, agitating the residue at the bottom of the sea could also discharge trapped carbon into the air and seas, worsening the effects of climate change.
According to a study, nodule mining could lead to a decrease in carbon storage of approximately 16 million metric tons per year, which is similar to the yearly carbon emissions of more than 3 million cars in the US.
Deep-sea mining can also have detrimental effects on marine ecosystems and biodiversity.
Although the exact effects of this kind of activity are still uncertain, they will undoubtedly have long-lasting consequences that will extend for centuries to come.
The Norwegian government released a statement one day after the vote, stating that the extraction will only be allowed if the industry can prove that it can be carried out in a sustainable and responsible way.