June 22, 2024


One of the world’s biggest environmental groups is suing the Norwegian government for opening up its seabed for deep-sea mining, claiming that Norway has failed to properly investigate the consequences of this move.

WWF-Norway says the government’s decision has breached Norwegian law, goes against the counsel of its own advisers, and sets a “dangerous precedent”.

“We believe the government is violating Norwegian law by now opening up for a new and potentially destructive industry without adequately assessing the consequences,” said Karoline Andaur, the CEO of WWF-Norway. “It will set a dangerous precedent if we allow the government to ignore its own rules, override all environmental advice, and manage our common natural resources blindly.”

In January, Norway became the first country in the world to give the go-ahead to commercial deep-sea mining after parliamentary approval. This was despite warnings from scientists of “catastrophic” consequences for marine life, and growing opposition from the EU and the UK, which support a temporary ban on environmental grounds.

The proposal, which relates to Norwegian waters in the sensitive Arctic region, will expose an area of 280,000 sq km – larger than Britain. Mining the deep sea involves the extraction of metals and minerals from the seabed and is being pursued because of their use in the transition to green energy, particularly electric car batteries.

WWF-Norway said that the assessment by the Norwegian energy ministry, which underpins the government’s decision to go ahead with deep-sea mining, fails to meet the minimum requirements of the Seabed Minerals Act and has no legal basis.

The Norwegian Environment Agency, which advises the government, has also said the impact assessment does not provide a sufficient scientific or legal basis for deep-sea mining.

Commenting on the lawsuit, Astrid Bergmål, the secretary of state at the Ministry of Energy, said: “We believe that a thorough process has been carried out with broad involvement, and that the applicable requirements have been followed. I note that WWF wants to try the case in court, and they have the right to do so. At this time, we have no further comment on the lawsuit.”

Last year, a Norwegian study said it had found a “substantial” amount of metals and minerals on its seabed.

In February, the European parliament expressed concern over Norway’s decision to open areas of the Arctic for deep-sea mining and called on member states to support a moratorium, including at the International Seabed Authority. The authority is expected to meet later this year, to ratify rules on mining in international waters.

So far, 25 countries, including France, Germany, Spain, Palau, Mexico and Sweden, have asked for a pause, moratorium or ban on mineral extraction of the seabed.



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