Why subsea mining?

Aug 19, 2021

Not because of the 170 billion NOK annual potential

Deep sea mineral extraction on the Norwegian shelf can provide Norway with annual revenues of NOK 170 billion and jobs for 21,000 people, but this is not why subsea mining is important for the future.

Not because of the jobs

Birds are migrating earlier. Lobsters and other marine species are moving further north. Plants are blooming when they are not suppose to. Mountain glaciers are melting and the snow cover is declining in the Northern hemisphere. Greenland’s ice sheet – which holds about 8% the Earth’s fresh water is melting at an accelerating rate. Global sea level is rising. The Artic sea ice is declining both in thickness and extent. The Earth is warming and it is largely caused by human activities.

Because we have to

We are not on track to achieve the necessary measures, but a joint Norwegian political establishment sees the need to act fast. A challenge is though, that the sence of urgency is better established within the political community than with the vast majority of the people.

The objective of the Paris Agreement is to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels”.

Energy production and use is the largest source of global greenhouse-gas emissions, meaning that the energy sector is crucial for achieving this objective.

The thing is though,.. we just does not have enough minerals to make the transition to green energy, while at the same time cover the increased need for energy among a constantly developing and fast growing global population.

Minerals

Minerals are materials that are essential in the production of everything from electrical components, car batteries, wind turbines and solar panels.

Green technologies are more material intensive and a low carbon future will lead to an extensive growth in the demand for minerals.

According to the Rystad Report the global demand for minerals from 2020 to 2050 range from a mulitplication factor of 2.1 to 4.2.

Sufficient mineral supply is critical to reach any of the outlined climate goals. The stricter the climate change targets, the more minerals are needed. We just don’t have enough minerals to meet the future demand.

Existing onshore supply

Future supply from currently operational onshore mines is uncertain. Some of the mines has been in operation since the end of the 19th century and the mineral ore quality is steadily declining.

Todays leading suppliers of minerals essential for the energy transition are African, American and Asian countries, many of the countries defined by political instability.

We need to be acknowledge the risk that the future supply of minerals to European countries might be challenged by new political strategies such as self-sufficiency and political independence.

Cobalt plays a vital role as cathode in Li-Ion batteries. The global need for cobalt is mainly supplied by D.R Congo which continues to use child labor for onshore mining of cobalt. Using child labor to fuel the green shift is just not ok.

The world was once told to look to Norway

When the Allies was fighting for world peace, U.S President Franklin D.Roosevelt told the world to look to Norway and the heroic spirit of the nation. The “Look to Norway Speach” inspired Americans, Norwegians and Europeans to take heart in the fierce, but necassary fight for freedom. The fight is different, but once again Norway can become an inspirational leader.

Large deposits of copper, cobalt, zink and lithium has already been detected on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. The government has enacted legislation for the exploration and extraction of minerals from the seabed and the impact assessment program, which is already underway, will ensure a sustainable extraction of the minerals from the seabed.

The oil and gas sector’s knowledge of and technologies for exploration and estimation of resource bases can help ensure the world the mineral supply that the green shift will require. This is why subsea mining is important. The 170 billion NOK and 21,000 new jobs is just the sideeffect.