Norway’s second-largest listed oil and gas company, Aker BP, said it would consider applying for licences to mine minerals from the seabed if parliament approves a plan for such exploration.
Norway could become the first country to start commercial deep sea mining if parliament gives the go-ahead to explore the remote Mid-Atlantic ridge for minerals such as copper, cobalt and rare earth elements, in a vote expected early next year.
“If parliament opens (oceans for seabed mining), we will consider applying for licenses,” Aker BP CEO Karl Johnny Hersvik told Reuters on the sidelines of an energy conference in Oslo on Wednesday.
Aker BP has a group of about 10 people working on seabed minerals.
“We are currently monitoring the situation. We still need to understand whether it can be economic, and how to explore,” Hersvik added.
Norway’s government says deep sea mining could help Europe reduce its dependence on China for the supply of critical minerals needed to build electric vehicle batteries, wind turbines and solar panels.
The move is controversial with conservationists, who warn that mining the ocean floor would threaten the biodiversity of vital ecosystems.
Mineral-rich massive sulphide deposits have been formed by so-called hydrothermal vents along mid-ocean ridges, where unique species are also found living near active vents.
“If there’s a ‘go’ for seabed minerals, we will definitely not target the active hydrothermal wells, because of potential environmental impact,” Hersvik said.
So far, several Norwegian seabed mineral startups, such as Green Minerals and Loke Marine Minerals, have said they would seek permits to explore Norwegian waters.
Loke, established in 2019, has attracted Anglo-French engineering firm TechnipFMC and shipping company Wilhelmsen, as investors.
But Aker BP would be by far the biggest player, if it goes ahead. It is also a part of the larger Aker Group, which includes oil service company Aker Solutions.
“We are looking at seabed minerals as part of the whole group,” Aker Solutions CEO Kjetel Digre told Reuters.
(By Nerijus Adomaitis, Editing by Terje Solsvik and Sharon Singleton)