Nestled beneath the waves of the Atlantic Ocean lies a geological wonder that stretches the length of the ocean itself: the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This underwater mountain range, the longest on Earth, is a crucial boundary between tectonic plates, home to volcanic activity that brings precious metals like gold and silver to the surface. Recently, it has also become a focal point for a burgeoning and highly controversial industry—seabed mining. As Norway moves to pioneer industrial-scale extraction of these underwater resources, the global community stands at a crossroads, balancing the potential benefits against significant environmental and geopolitical risks.

The Genesis of Seabed Mining

In early 2024, the Norwegian Parliament made headlines by authorizing seabed exploration for mining in areas of the Norwegian Sea, situated between Norway and Greenland. This groundbreaking decision marks Norway as the first country to push forward with plans to develop industrial seabed mining, aiming to exploit vast underwater reserves of minerals and metals.

Seabed mining involves extracting polymetallic nodules—potato-sized clusters rich in minerals—from the ocean floor. These nodules contain an array of valuable elements, including copper, zinc, cobalt, and rare earth elements, which are critical for modern technology and the green energy transition. Norway’s seabed mining initiative promises to unlock more than 38 million tons of copper and 45 million tons of zinc, alongside significant quantities of other crucial minerals.

Environmental Concerns and Opposition

Despite the potential economic windfall, seabed mining faces vehement opposition from environmentalists and scientists. The primary concern is the profound and largely unknown impact on marine ecosystems. The extraction process could disrupt habitats, harm marine biodiversity, and alter the life cycles of deep-sea species. Critics argue that our understanding of deep-sea environments is minimal compared to our knowledge of deep space, making any intervention fraught with risks.

Even Equinor, Norway’s leading oil company, has expressed reservations about the environmental consequences of seabed mining. This sentiment is echoed by multinational corporations like BMW, Google, Volvo, and Samsung, all of which have supported calls for a moratorium on seabed mining through the World Wildlife Fund.

The Norwegian government has assured that any future industrial extraction will adhere to stringent international treaties designed to protect marine life. Nonetheless, many activists remain unconvinced, citing the precautionary principle and advocating for a thorough understanding of potential impacts before proceeding with large-scale operations.

The Promise of Seabed Mining

Proponents of seabed mining highlight several potential benefits. One significant argument is the potential for seabed mining to offer a greener alternative to traditional land-based mining. Extracting minerals from the seabed, proponents argue, could reduce the environmental footprint associated with land mining, which often involves deforestation, water pollution, and extensive land degradation.

Studies suggest that seabed mining could lower CO2 emissions associated with mining certain minerals by substantial margins—80% for nickel, 76% for copper, 29% for cobalt, and 22% for manganese. This is partly because seabed nodules are typically found just beneath a thin layer of sediment, making them easier to locate and extract compared to land-based deposits, which often require significant water resources and extensive excavation.

The Geopolitical Dimension

Beyond the environmental debate, seabed mining carries significant geopolitical implications. The growing demand for rare earth elements and other critical minerals has intensified global competition for these resources. Currently, China dominates the production and supply of rare earth elements, controlling an estimated 85% to 95% of the market. This monopoly presents a strategic vulnerability for other nations, particularly the United States and its allies.

Seabed mining offers a potential solution to diversify and secure critical mineral supply chains. The International Seabed Authority (ISA), established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), governs seabed mining activities in international waters. The ISA has developed a regulatory framework, known as the Mining Code, to oversee exploration and exploitation, ensuring that any benefits are shared equitably.

China has been proactive in securing seabed mining licenses, with operations planned in areas like the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, one of the richest regions for seabed minerals. This strategic maneuvering has prompted other nations, including the United States, to consider their positions and policies regarding seabed mining.

Case Studies and International Perspectives

Several countries have already ventured into seabed mining or are actively exploring its potential. For instance, Namibia, in collaboration with the diamond giant De Beers, has been mining diamonds from shallow waters off its coast since 2002. While not technically deep-sea mining, this operation has provided valuable insights into the environmental and economic challenges associated with marine mining.

Japan successfully completed its first excavation test of a cobalt-rich crust in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in 2020, uncovering enough cobalt to meet its national demand for 88 years. Similarly, New Zealand has been grappling with the balance between economic benefits and environmental risks, with its Supreme Court blocking seabed mining operations due to strong opposition from environmental groups.

The Cook Islands have also expressed ambitions to develop seabed mining within their EEZ, aiming to leverage their rich marine resources for economic growth. However, this pursuit has sparked concerns about the long-term sustainability and environmental impact of such activities.

The Role of International Regulations

The International Seabed Authority plays a crucial role in regulating seabed mining, particularly in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The ISA’s Mining Code sets out the rules and procedures for commercial operations, including environmental safeguards and the equitable sharing of benefits. The ISA has also proposed that companies and nations pay royalties to compensate for the removal of resources deemed the common heritage of mankind.

However, critics argue that the existing regulatory framework is insufficient to address the complex environmental and geopolitical challenges posed by seabed mining. They call for more stringent regulations and comprehensive environmental assessments before any large-scale operations commence.

The Way Forward

The future of seabed mining hinges on balancing economic ambitions with environmental stewardship and geopolitical stability. As Norway and other nations pioneer this new frontier, the global community must navigate the myriad challenges and opportunities presented by seabed mining.

Investing in research and development to better understand deep-sea ecosystems is essential. Robust environmental impact assessments and the development of sustainable mining technologies will be critical to minimizing harm. Furthermore, international cooperation and transparent governance are paramount to ensuring that seabed mining benefits all of humanity, rather than exacerbating existing inequalities and conflicts.


1. What is seabed mining? Seabed mining involves extracting valuable minerals and metals from the ocean floor. This can include polymetallic nodules, which are rich in elements like copper, cobalt, and rare earths, as well as hydrothermal deposits containing various sulfides.

2. Why is Norway pioneering seabed mining? Norway aims to exploit its vast underwater mineral resources to secure economic benefits and support the green energy transition. The country expects to find significant quantities of copper, zinc, cobalt, and other valuable minerals in its seabed.

3. What are the environmental concerns associated with seabed mining? Environmentalists and scientists worry that seabed mining could disrupt marine ecosystems, harm biodiversity, and alter the life cycles of deep-sea species. The full impact of these activities is not yet well understood.

4. How could seabed mining benefit the green energy transition? Seabed mining could provide a more environmentally friendly alternative to land-based mining by reducing CO2 emissions and minimizing land degradation. The minerals extracted are crucial for technologies like electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy systems.

5. What role does the International Seabed Authority (ISA) play? The ISA regulates seabed mining activities in international waters, ensuring that benefits are shared equitably and environmental safeguards are in place. The ISA’s Mining Code outlines the rules and procedures for commercial operations.

6. Why is seabed mining geopolitically significant? Seabed mining has the potential to diversify and secure critical mineral supply chains, reducing dependence on dominant producers like China. This is particularly important for the United States and its allies in the context of the green energy transition.

7. What are some notable examples of seabed mining projects? Countries like Namibia, Japan, and the Cook Islands have already initiated seabed mining projects or are exploring their potential. These projects offer valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities of marine resource extraction.


Seabed mining represents a tantalizing yet perilous opportunity. The potential to access vast reserves of critical minerals needed for the green energy transition must be weighed against the significant environmental and geopolitical risks. As Norway embarks on this ambitious venture, the global community must engage in a thoughtful and inclusive dialogue, guided by science and driven by a commitment to sustainable development. Only then can we hope to unlock the promise of the deep without unleashing unforeseen consequences.

Liked it? Take a second to support Ryan Hite on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

By Ryan Hite

Ryan Hite is an American author, content creator, podcaster, and media personality. He was born on February 3, 1993, in Colorado and spent his childhood in Conifer, Colorado. He moved to Littleton in 2000 and spent the remainder of his schooling years in the city. Upon graduation from Chatfield Senior High School in 2011, he attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated from the university in 2015 after studying Urban Planning, Business Administration, and Religious Studies. He spent more time in Colorado in the insurance, real estate, and healthcare industries. In 2019, he moved to Las Vegas, NV, where he continued to work in healthcare, insurance, and took his foray into media full time in 2021. His first exposure to the media industry came as a result of the experiences he had in his mid to late teens and early twenties. In 2013, he was compelled to collect a set of stories from his personal experiences and various other writings that he has had. His first book, a 365,000-word epic, Through Minds Eyes, was published in collaboration with Balboa Press. That initial book launched a media explosion. He learned all that he could about creating websites, marketing his published works, and would even contemplate the publication of other works as well. This book also inspired him to create his philosophy, his life work, that still influences the values that he holds in his life. Upon graduating college, he had many books published, blogs and other informative websites uploaded, and would embark on his continued exploration of the world of marketing, sales, and becoming an influencer. Of course, that did not come without challenges that would come his way. His trial-and-error approach of marketing himself and making himself known guided him through his years as a real estate agent, an insurance agent, and would eventually create a marketing plan from scratch with a healthcare startup. The pandemic did not initially create too many challenges to the status quo. Working from home did not affect the quality of his life. However, a series of circumstances such as continued website problems, social media shutdowns, and unemployment, caused him to pause everything between late 2020 and mid-2021. It was another period of loss of momentum and purpose for his life as he tried to navigate the world, as many people may have felt at that time. He attempted to find purpose in insurance again, resulting in failure. There was one thing that sparked his curiosity and would propel him to rediscover the thing that was gone from his life for so long. In 2021, he started his journey by taking on a full-time job in the digital media industry, an industry that he is still a part of today. It was at this point that he would also shut down the rest of the media that he had going at the time. In 2023, he announced that he would be embarking on what has become known as PROJECT30. This initiative will result in the reformation of websites, the reinvigoration of social media accounts, the creation of a Youtube channel and associated podcast, the creation of music, and the continued rediscovery of his creative potential. Unlike past projects, the purpose of this would not expound on the musings of a philosophy, the dissemination of useless news and articles, or the numerous attempts to be someone that he was not. This project is going to be about his authentic self. There are many ways to follow him as he embarks on this journey. Most of all, he wants everyone to be entertained, informed, and, in some ways, maybe a little inspired about the flourishing of the creativity that lies within the mind and soul of Ryan.

Leave a Reply