Revolutions are never popular among those in power
Six months from now, the Norwegian Government will decide whether the Norwegian Continental Shelf is to be opened for mineral exploration. By establishing a Norwegian maritime mineral industry, Norway can contribute to the productions of the worlds most sustainable minerals. But if we believe we can do so, without facing resistance, we are very much wrong.
The companies that look to the deep-sea to cover the vast increase in the global need for minerals, are convinced they will be able to extract minerals in a far more sustainable way than what’s being done today. The main reason is a far higher concentration of minerals in the deep-sea, than on land.
The worlds biggest industry
To understand how influencial the mining industry actually is, all you have to do is to take a look around you.
Everything, that has not been grown, has been mined from the earth. This makes the mining industry one of the most powerful industries in the world, with hundred of tousinds employees, powerful unions, strong ties to governments, and close relations to the biggest companies in the world.
The biggest problem with todays mines is the enormous amounts of overburden. Even in the US, which is a small producer of minerals, the waste from the mining industry accounts for nine times the amount of consumer waste.
50% of the current global production of lithium and copper happens in areas with high water stress levels. The mining industry is a huge consumer of fresh water and if the temperature is to rise further, due to climate change, this will have large impact on the millions of people living in these areas.
The only way we can solve the climate crisis is by reducing the Co2 consumption. 10% of the global Co2 consumption comes from crushing rocks and therefor we cannot afford to crush rocks we don’t use.
The ore quality in todays most productive mines are 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.
Revolutionizing the mining industry
Through the extraction of minerals, from extinct hydrothermal areas, using remotely operated subsea machines, Norway aim to revolutionize the mining industry.
Revolutions are rarely popular among those in power, and through its marine mineral initiative, Norway challenges powerful structures within the society. But it’s not only the mining industry, that keep a close eye on what’s happening in Norway, the actors closely connected to the industry do just the same.
“If the deep-sea mineral enthusiasts are right, the mining industry has more than a reputation problem”.
If we take a closer look at some of the nations that have taken a stance against deep-sea mining, and interesting picture start to emerge.
Australia, a country with a strong mining industry and no deep-sea resources of its own is against extracting minerals from deep-sea deposits. The same applies for France, a country with several hundreds of mines within its jurisdiction. Germany, a leading global manufacturer of equipment for terrestrial mining, and Chile the largest producer of copper in the world, has also taken a stance against the extraction of deep-sea minerals.
A part of the Chinese strategy
China, which has defined itself as a near-artctic-nation, is deeply commited to deep-sea mining. The countries investment into the sector outnumbers the combined investments from Europe and the US 30:1 and has ownership interests in several of the European companies that aim to take position in the emerging industry.
Through its refinement industry, China controls between 40-70% of the production of the minerals that are critical for the green shift. If we account for the refinement sites outside of China, the total numbers are even higher.
With more than 90% of the global production, China has total control of the rare earth mineral industry. Rare earth minerals are crucial for the development of all modern technologies.
Within the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) large deep-sea deposits of rare earth minerals have been identified. Both the technologies for mineral extraction and the minerals themselves will be of great interest to China.
Russia with huge territorial claims
Russia, is the nation with the largest claims in the Polar Sea. The Polar Sea is home to gigantic volcanic spreading ridges which represent an enormous future source of minerals.
Already today, 20% of the GDP of Russia comes from inside the Arctic circle. If the polar ice melts, the Polar Sea mineral resources will represent an important future source of income.
Simultaneously, a global increase in temperature will increase the Polar Sea’s importance as a global source of proteins.
Russia will follow the Norwegian activities in the area closely, try to attain information, and put pressure on Norwegian companies and government officials. Both to protect its large mining industry, but also to secure its own future interests.
How will the opponents act?
The tools that will be used to slow down the development of the new industry are well known. Within the defence sector, they frequently go by the name hybrid tools. These tools combines traditional tactics with strategies like cyber attacs and informational warfare.
The purpose is simple. Nurture ignorance, create disturbance, and grow fear.
We will see the whole repertoire
Fear is the most fundamental reaction in humans. What we don’t know, we fear. In the time to come, Norwegian decision makers will be faced with different types of information campaigns. They will be showed pictures of whales with hearing-protection and big subsea machines crushing coral reeves.
The purpose is simple. The pictures nurtures the fear for what we don’t know.
When the world’s biggest industry is challenged, the geopolitical powerbase is shifting, and the future boarder of nations are at play, we will see the whole repertoire. The actors will go far further than putting money into a civil organization campaign. They will finance research, invest heavily in lobbying campaigns, try to control the press, spread desinformation, put pressure on political and industrial decisionmakers, and use large labor organizations as political leverage.
But is deep-sea mining a threat to the mining industry? For real?
That we don’t know. But if the deep-sea mineral enthuisasts are right, and it’s proved that minerals can be extracted through key-hole operations, in remote operations, with a low overburden, without using huge amounts of fresh water in the process.. then the mining industry has more than a reputation problem..they then a have a competitor in the domain that is estimated to hold 90% of the worlds mineral deposits.
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