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NGO Sues Norway over Seabed Mining Approval

Seabed mining lease area
Seabed mineral sample (Photo: Norwegian Continental Shelf Directorate)

Published Jun 2, 2024 3:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

Environmental campaign group WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) is moving to sue Norway for its controversial decision to open up vast parts of its continental shelf to deep seabed mining. According to WWF-Norway, the legal action is the last resort in an attempt to compel the Norwegian government to withdraw its approval of seabed mining.

WWF claims that the impact assessment carried out by the Norwegian Ministry of Energy fails to satisfy minimum requirements of the country’s Subsea Minerals Act. The impact analysis by the ministry underpins the government’s approval of seabed mining.

“We believe the government is violating Norwegian law by opening up for a new and potentially destructive industry without adequately assessing the consequences. 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,” said Karoline Andaur, CEO WWF-Norway.

WWF initially sent a notice of lawsuit to the government in April. However, the government has dismissed the lawsuit as lacking merit. “We believe a thorough process has been carried out with broad involvement, and the applicable requirements have been followed,” said Astrid Bergmål, the secretary of state at the Ministry of Energy.

In January, Norway became the first country in the world to open some areas of its continental shelf to mining. This means that industry players could be awarded licenses to map and explore minerals within Norway’s EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone). The decision has drawn criticism, especially from environmental campaigners who claim that there is limited understanding of deep sea ecosystems, as well as a lack of a robust regulatory regime.

In addition, around 25 countries have joined calls for a moratorium or precautionary pause on seabed mining, until the environmental and economic risks of the activity are clearly understood. These countries include Canada, Sweden, UK, Fiji and Mexico.