In the recent turn of events a Scandinavian country, aims to boost its economy by extracting rare materials through deep sea mining in the Acratic Ocean. In January 2024, Norway announced initiation of deep-sea mining to extract rare materials and minerals from the sea bed. The primary focus will be on extracting polymetallic modules containing manganese, copper, nickel, cobalt, lithium, scandium and other materials. The country has green-flagged the deep sea extraction of materials within the designated area of 28,000km, becoming the first country to do so. The high initial investment to develop the technology and infrastructure for deep sea mining is the major factor limiting the government from exploring such business opportunities. To cater financial challenges, the government of Norway has passed a tender to private companies and has started to accepting bids for the project.
The rare materials extracted through deep sea mining are extensively used in the manufacturing of electronic devices, solar panels, wind turbines, and EV batteries among others. The rising demand for these materials will shape future business opportunities within the semiconductor, electronics, automotive and transport industries. By 2040, the demand for these rare materials is expected to double, backed by the global transition towards clean energy sources. Other countries such as China, Japan, and Jamaica are also interested in initiating deep-sea mining projects. According to the norms established by the International Sea Bed Authority (ISA), a country can perform deep-sea mining in their waters, but cannot do so in international waters.
Increasing concerns about the negative environmental impact that deep sea mining is expected to cause have created a hindrance in this situation. According to scientists, the ocean bed has a very sensitive ecosystem and removing those rare materials can have significant and irreversible environmental damage. The damage will also extend to thousands of marine species, following ecological impact on the whole area of the seabed. More than 30 countries want to ban deep-sea mining due to its unprecedented environmental impacts. These steps strongly demand some guidelines to ensure the sustainability of the ecosystem which is yet to be discussed and implemented by the international authorities. The rising approach towards recycling and establishing a circular economy has also generated questions about the actual need for deep sea mining or if is it just a way to boost revenues and a nation's economy. The recycling industry of lithium-ion which is a very crucial material in EVs is expected to rise by 21% CAGR between 2022 and 2033, and the more than 55% demand for this rare material can be catered through recycling and circular economies by 2050.
In response to such controversies, Terje Aasland, the minister of petroleum and energy, Norway announced that they will be assessing the situation first and gathering knowledge about the environmental impact of deep-sea mining. A step-by-step approach will be taken during the execution of the project, and if proven profitable and sustainable, the country plans to boost its economy through seabed mining while catering to the demand for crucial materials in the world.