Deep-sea core drilling machine

Is it the right time to invest in deep-sea mining?

Feb 19, 2024

Seabed Solutions AS

Written by andreas svanlund

Is this the right time to make a societal investment in deep-sea mining? Or should we place our bet on the existing system?

When the EU Parliament votes against a Norwegian Parliament majority to investigate the possibilities of mineral extraction from the seabed, it is natural to ask which party is the most forward-thinking, the Norwegian Parliament or the EU Parliament, and if one were to invest, whom to bet on.

The guiding principle for all investments is simple: If today’s price is right – don’t buy, don’t sell – there is nothing to gain.

This fundamental principle applies to all types of investments, from investments in one’s own health, to educational choices, stock purchases, and the establishment of new industries.

Sensible investments are what you do when you have identified an imbalance that you believe will affect the future value of a resource.

Are there any imbalances? 

All investments comes with a risk

Since the future is always uncertain, all investments are associated with some form of risk. Since consensus is already priced into the market, risk is what you get paid for.

It is innovation that pushes the boundaries of the global economy and guarantees that tomorrow can be better than today.

The Norwegian Parliament’s decision to open up for exploration of minerals on the Norwegian continental shelf is a controversial decision, and we should be grateful there is opposition from environmental organizations like WWF and Greenpeace. Opposition is an important signal to make note of.

The poet T.S. Eliot put it nicely when he said: “Only those who are willing to risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go,” and in that sense, the Norwegian  Parliament has made a brave choice.


Is the time right? 

When evaluating whether the timing for seabed mining is right, we must evaluate if there are any changes in the global economy that could affect the future value of resources.

Such an assessment must be seen in light of the fundamental forces the market is built on, and the geopolitical frameworks within which the market is to operate.

After the fall of the Soviet Union and until around 2015, we lived in a unipolar world order. The fact that the unipolar power was liberal laid the groundwork for a liberal world order, where the US Navy ensured free shipping and open markets.

In the years after 2015, we saw a multipolar power structure emerge with several great powers in the international system, which brought power politics back to the international agenda.

The unrest we now see encompasses everything from sabotage of undersea fiber optic cables to destruction of satellites, invasion wars, and disruption of international shipping traffic.

It is within this complex landscape that the new international economy must operate.

The liberal system served the world well. Sharing of knowledge and resources across borders gave us technologies that allowed us to explore the deepest ocean areas and the ability to utilize space.

While prosperity increased, the populations in industrialized countries, in good liberal spirit, became more concerned with self-realization. They had fewer children, and polluting industries moved to where labor was cheapest.



Is there imbalance in the existing market?

In an international system where Americans patrolled the world’s oceans, it was natural to have resources close to the producers, and gradually, China gained greater control over the value chain, critical minerals, the industrial base, the shipping industry, and technology development.

Today, China controls 90% of the market for rare earth elements, critical in everything from electronics to satellites, in addition to the majority of the minerals involved in green technologies.

A clear desire from China, Russia, and Iran for a new world order puts the USA under enormous pressure. Liberal values, which once seemed able to stop all wars, are in retreat worldwide, and the system that guaranteed them is deteriorating.

China is investing heavily in military capabilities, and while Russia invades its neighbors and the Middle East is in turmoil, Americans hold their breath awaiting China’s invasion of Taiwan, thus depriving the West of the microchips that still ensure they are part of the technological race.



deep sea mining machine

If today’s price is right, and there is no identidied imbalance in the system, – don’t buy, don’t sell – there is nothing to gain“.

What about the existing mining industry ?

At the same time as the world is transitioning to a mineral-based energy system, the concentration in the world’s most productive mines is rapidly declining.

In Chile, the worlds biggest producer of copper, the ore quality has declined by 30% over the last fiftheen years. This means an increased amount of waste and more intense use of already scarce water resources. 




The average concentration in today’s land-based copper mines is below 0.53%, and only 0.39% in planned mines, concentrations of over 10% have been measured in the deep sea off Norway.

When the concentration of a mineral is halved, energy consumption increases ten-fold, and since the demand for minerals will be ten times higher in 2030 than today, the use of fossil energy in the mining industry, which already consumes more fossil fuel than the aviation industry, will increase drastically, and put further pressure on the carbon budget. 


Is today’s societal and economical price right?

Both the choice to invest and the choice not to invest entail risks. Risks that are not only financial but affect a broad spectrum of societal development.

But when considering whether seabed minerals are a good solution for the future, remember the guiding principle for all investments.

If today’s price is right and there is no imbalance – don’t buy, don’t sell – there is nothing to gain.


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