2023 could be a significant year for subsea mining, both in Norway and internationally. Norway’s environmental impact assessment for marine mining is ongoing, and the opening of the first Norwegian area for marine mining licenses is due to be approved while the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which has the authority over licenses in international waters, is due to approve legislation for marine mining exploitation internationally.
Critical minerals for the green transition have large remaining reserves under water. As an example, 96% of the world’s remaining cobalt reserves are under water. Subsea mining can directly impact the green transition, Underwater Technology Conference (UTC) keynote speaker Tore Halvorsen says. But it needs knowledge from the oil and gas industry to make it happen and Norway could lead that drive, both in terms of technology but also licensing and regulation, he will tell UTC, during June 14-18.
Tore Halvorsen, previously SVP Subsea Systems at TechnipFMC, is CTO at Loke Marine Minerals, which was founded in 2019, with TechnipFMC and Wilhelmsen as technology partners and investors. It’s targeting the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone and international waters.
“The green transition is fully dependant on critical minerals, and marine mining will not happen without the knowledge we are sitting on as an oil and gas industry,” he says. “I think Norway can play a very important role in this. Norway could become a dominant technology player and operator in marine minerals because of the heritage from oil and gas.
“There are two main triggers for a significant jump in the interest for marine minerals.
One is that Norway is planning to approve the opening of an area for licensing for marine minerals. The other is that the ISA is due to approve legislation for marine mining exploitation in 2023.
“The Security of Supply for critical minerals is increasing significantly. Both the geopolitical situation and the fact that very few countries are controlling both extraction and processing of critical minerals is a growing concern for many industrial countries who are highly dependant on these critical minerals.
“Remaining reserves of critical minerals like Cobalt, Manganese, Nickel and Copper can to a large extent be found under water. Up to 96% of the world’s remaining cobalt reserves are under water. For Manganese and Nickel, the situation is similar, with 75-85% of the remaining reserves under water.
“Norway can play a vital role in developing marine mining as a new industry. The ISA see Norway as having demonstrated the ability to produce oil and gas with a high safety level, high environmental focus. Norway’s legislation for Marine Mining is to a large degree built on oil and gas legislation. Norway is already engaged by ISA to help develop the international legislation for marine mining.
“In addition, Norway’s strong expertise in deepwater oil and gas technology can directly be used and built on to develop a new industry around marine mining, with similar export opportunities as for the oil and gas sector.
“The environmental aspect of marine mining will be a main focus area to ensure we fully understand the impact of marine mining prior to startup. Norway has a long tradition in both baselining, impact assessment and environmental monitoring from the oil and gas sector and a lot of work has already been done regarding marine minerals both by universities and NPD.