A recent study from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate found large amounts of valuable metals and minerals on the seabed of the country’s continental shelf, Reuters reported. The rare earth metals, copper, and other materials would be a boon to Europe’s ability to produce energy transition technologies, but environmentalists are worried about the potential impacts of mining in the area.
The Directorate’s study found that there were more than 40 million tons of copper in remote areas of the Norwegian Sea and Greenland Sea. The study also discovered cobalt, magnesium, and niobium. All of these are considered critical raw materials in Europe because they are used to produce consumer items across several industries. There are also deposits of rare earth elements, including neodymium and dysprosium, Reuters reported. This is an especially critical find because European countries import most of their rare metals from other nations.
Drilling for these materials could help fuel green technologies, including EVs and batteries to store solar and wind energy. “Costly, rare minerals such as neodymium and dysprosium are extremely important for magnets in wind turbines and the engines in electric vehicles,” the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate said in a statement, according to Reuters. The Petroleum Directorate also said that there are enough materials in these seabed deposits to cover years of global metal consumption, Sky News reported.
Environmental groups in the country are asking the government to pause exploration for now. They want further studies to understand how mining will affect marine life along the seabed. A consultation letter from Norway’s Institute of Marine Research pointed out that while the Directorate’s study gave estimates for how much of the precious metals are available, studies could be conducted to figure out how much of those materials could be extracted without causing major environmental disruption. The Institute also worries that there may be undiscovered species in the ocean, which could also be affected by mineral exploration.
This news comes just a few weeks after nearby Sweden discovered what could be some of the largest known rare earth metal deposits in Europe. LKAB, a state-owned Swedish mining company, said that it had found over a million metric tons of rare earth oxides. “This is the largest known deposit of rare earth elements in our part of the world, and it could become a significant building block for producing the critical raw materials that are absolutely crucial to enable the green transition,” Jan Moström, LKAB president and CEO, said in an online statement about the discovery.