Norway Parliament Approves World's First Commercial Deep Sea Mining

    Image copyright: Flickr via Wikimedia Commons

    The Facts

    • The Norwegian parliament on Tuesday approved deep-sea mining across 108K square miles of its national waters, paving the way to becoming the first country in the world to allow companies to dig for minerals like cobalt, scandium, and lithium on the bottom of the ocean. An international agreement on deep-sea mining in international waters is also expected later this year.

    • Before companies can begin drilling, they will have to complete studies on the impact on marine life and receive a parliament-approved license. While this means mineral extraction may not begin until the 2030s, once it does, it's believed it will create an industry worth between hundreds of millions to trillions of dollars. Seventeen protected marine areas will also be excluded from drilling.

    The Spin

    Narrative A

    The proposed deep-sea mining industry will wipe out vast amounts of nonmicrobial species if its thunderous machines are allowed to operate on the ocean floor. First, the noise pollution will send the larger predator fish fleeing away; then, once they begin kicking sediment up on the seabed, those particles will choke all the smaller prey fish to death. Furthermore, the polymetallic nodules that rest on the ocean floor are where animals like sponges and worms live, which means their lives will also be cut short due to the cobalt industry boom.

    Narrative B

    While governments should take necessary precautions and conduct research before greenlighting deep-sea mining, they shouldn't take too long in the face of the far greater enemy of climate change. Rising sea levels due to fossil fuel burning risks making entire countries uninhabitable, so the future must be electric. Furthermore, mineral mining on land produces more harm than in the sea, adding human rights violations on top of environmental challenges. Deep-sea mining is the least harmful solution to global warming.

    Metaculus Prediction

    Articles on this story

    Sign up to our daily newsletter