The Price of Sustainability

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Norway on Tuesday approved deep-sea mining exploration, becoming the first country to do so, even as it has received harsh criticism from environmental groups and the fishing industry over the potential damage such extraction can cause marine ecosystems, the Financial Times reported.

Norway’s minority center-left government said it received support from the two main opposition center-right parties for the plan, but added there would be strict environmental criteria set for any extraction.

Under the proposal, Norway would open up nearly 110,000 square miles of sea for exploration. The proposed area is close to the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in the Arctic, to which Norway says it has exclusive mining rights.

Sea beds in Norway and elsewhere are believed to carry a vast amount of minerals used by green-tech industries for products such as electric batteries and wind turbines. These resources include copper, cobalt and rare earth metals, such as neodymium and dysprosium.

The government hailed the move as a “responsible and sustainable” effort to extract crucial minerals to reduce reliance on China in the supply chain of many such industries.

However, the country’s own environmental agency advised against the proposal over concerns that it would threaten the fragile marine environment. Environmental groups, such as the Norwegian affiliate of the World Wide Fund for Nature, called it “the biggest disgrace in Norway’s management of the oceans in modern times.”

Even so, Norway’s offshore oil and gas industry welcomed the plan, saying it could provide new jobs as petroleum activities wind down.

The country is Western Europe’s largest petroleum producer.

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