The European Union Parliament has expressed displeasure at Norway's deep-sea mining plans

  • On February 7, members of the European Parliament voted in favor of a resolution raising concerns about Norway's intentions to begin deep-sea mining operations.
  • While the resolution carries no legal force, experts say it sends a strong signal to Norway that it lacks the European support it relies on.
  • Norway's foreign ministry said it took note of the resolution, saying it, like its European partners, is committed to „sustainable ocean management”.
  • In January, Norway allowed deep-sea mining exploration to begin in its waters.

The European Parliament has voted in favor of a resolution raising concerns about Norway's deep-sea mining intentions in Arctic waters. While the resolution has no legal authority to block Norway, experts say the EU, which is not a part of Norway but is a close partner, does not support its plans. .

The Resolution Norway's deep-sea mining projects presented a range of issues, including the potential for extracting minerals from the Arctic seabed to disrupt fisheries, sub-glacial ecosystems and methane stored in Arctic permafrost soils, and lead to biodiversity and general loss. Functioning of marine ecosystems. It also noted that seven EU countries, several international organizations and bodies such as the IUCN have called for a moratorium, precautionary suspension or ban on deep-sea mining. The resolution also said that Norway's own environmental agency had raised concerns about „significant knowledge gaps about the natural, technological and potential environmental effects” in the Norwegian government's environmental impact assessment for its mineral extraction activities.

The motion for the resolution received overwhelming support, with 523 members of the European Parliament voting in favor during a parliamentary session in Strasbourg, France on February 7. Only 34 members voted against the resolution and 59 abstained. Voting.

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Catherine Chabat, a French member of the European Parliament, whose political group, the Renew Europe Group, supported the resolution, saying the vote represented „the strong position of parliament”.

“If Norway goes in this direction and opens the door [mining] Exploitation, maybe China and others will find it easier to go this way,” Chabad told Mongabay. „I think it's really important to react.”

A red jellyfish looks like it is floating upside down in the deep sea. In 2018, the European Parliament passed another resolution calling for an international ban on deep-sea mining, which it reiterated in 2021 when it released its Biodiversity Strategy 2030. Image by NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program Flickr.

Apart from Norway, several countries are embarking on deep-sea mining both domestically and internationally. International leaders China, India, Japan, Russia and South Korea account for more than half of the exploration licenses issued by the UN-affiliated International Seabed Authority (ISA), which governs deep-sea mining activities. In international waters. However, deep-sea mining – where mining occurs on an industrial scale for commercial purposes – has yet to take off anywhere in the world.

In 2018, the European Parliament passed Another resolution Calling for an international ban on deep-sea mining is a status quo reiterated In 2021 when it released the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.

The vote in favor of the new resolution comes a month after Norway's own parliament voted in January to begin deep-sea mining off its coast, drawing criticism from scientists, conservation experts and the general public.

The first step in Norway's plans is to open up a 281,000-square-kilometer (108,500-square-mile) area of ​​ocean — nearly the size of Italy — to deep-sea mining exploration. This area falls across Norway's extended continental shelf, over which Norway has jurisdiction, and the territorial waters of the Svalbard Archipelago, which Norway controversially claims as its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Russia, the UK and several EU countries dispute Norway's claim to Svalbard.

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Although Norway says deep-sea mining is necessary to procure minerals for renewable technologies, critics say the development of these technologies does not depend on undersea minerals. Also, many scientists say knowledge of the harmful effects of deep-sea and seabed mining is lacking. There is It is known to severely damage the marine environment and disrupt fisheries.

Martin Webeler, marine campaigner at the Environmental Justice Foundation, a non-profit organization who attended the parliamentary session in Strasbourg on February 7, said the resolution „sends a strong signal to Norway”.

Normand Energy is a deepwater drilling vessel sailing under the flag of Norway.
Normand Energy is a deepwater drilling vessel sailing under the flag of Norway. Image © Sandy Huffaker Jr. / Greenpeace.
International activists and environmental organizations gather outside Norway's parliament to protest against Norway's deep-sea mining plans.
International activists and environmental organizations gather outside Norway's parliament to protest against Norway's deep-sea mining plans. Image © Will Rose / Greenpeace.

„Norway is not dependent on support from Europe, but they are close partners,” Webeler said. „This is a very unusual move, with the European Parliament criticizing such a close ally, so it has strong political implications.”

Norway can rely on the EU to make deep-sea mining a „financially viable industry”, said Haldis Djeldflot Helle, Norwegian campaigner for Greenpeace Nordic.

„Norway can sell these minerals to a European market, and Norway is considering deep-sea mining to be included in the green taxonomy and considered a green industry,” Helle told Mongabay.

The Green Taxonomy is a framework developed by the European Union to define economic activities that are considered environmentally sustainable.

Hell added that the resolution „shows international commitment to ending deep-sea mining” and that „Norway should really take this seriously”.

Maria Vardaresian, the state secretary of Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Mongabay that Norway had taken the resolution into account and stressed that „no offshore mining operations have started in Norwegian waters”. He said Norway would only proceed with deep-sea mining exploration with a „knowledge-based approach” and that „no exploitative activity will be allowed until we know more”.

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„Norway and the EU have a shared interest and commitment to comprehensive, knowledge-based and sustainable marine management that balances both the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources,” Verderesian said in an emailed statement.

„Our European partners can rest assured that these principles will form the basis of all activities in Norwegian waters,” he added. „We take our role as a sustainable maritime nation seriously and will continue to do so in the upcoming process.”

Banner Image: A bearded seal in Svalbard. Image by Rob Oh via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Elizabeth Claire Alberts Senior staff writer for Mongabay's Ocean Desk. Follow her on Mastodon, @[email protected]blue sky, @elizabethalberts.bsky.social, And Twitter @ECAlberts.

'A sad day indeed' as Norway votes to allow deep-sea mining in Arctic waters

Deep Sea, Deep Sea Mining, Environment, Environmental Law, Environmental Politics, Governance, Industry, Ocean, Marine Conservation, Marine Crisis, Marine Protected Areas, Mining, Ocean Crisis, Oceans

Arctic, Arctic Ocean, Europe, European Union, Norway

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