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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between minerals, metals and alloy?

Minerals are solid, naturally occurring inorganic substances found in nature made up of one or more elements. Minerals is mined to get access to metals. Most elements on the periodic table are metals. They are grouped together in the middle to the left-hand side of the periodic table and can more easily give away electrons compared to other elements.

An alloy is two of more metallic elements mixed to form a new unique substance that has differing chemical and physical properties to its component parts. More than 90% of the metals in use today are alloys. Iron ore is mined more than any other metal. Steel is a widely used alloy made up of iron with typically a few tenths of a percent of carbon to improve its strength and fracture resistance.

What are minerals/metals used for?

Metals are used for a wide variety of purposes and applications we rely on in our every- day life like:

  • power- generation, distribution and storage
  • buildings, construction and infrastructure
  • bikes, cars, trains, plains, boats
  • computers, mobiles, medical instruments etc.

What is “energy transition minerals/metals”?

This is a term used about minerals/metals, which are key to implementing the energy transition. This describes minerals/metals needed to upscale renewable energy production, especially solar and wind power, as well as batteries for energy storage and electrification of the transport sector.

The IEA report “The role of critical minerals in clean energy transitions” are focusing on Copper, Lithium, Nickel, Manganese, Cobalt, Graphite, Chromium, Molybdenum, Zinc, Silicon and rare earth elements.

Nickel, cobalt, lithium, manganese and graphite are listed as crucial for battery performance, longevity and energy density.

Wind turbines comprises huge quantities of copper, nickel, manganese, chromium and zinc. Rare earth elements as essential for permanent magnets that are vital for wind turbines and electrical vehicles.

Electricity networks need a huge amount of copper and aluminium, with copper being a cornerstone for all electricity-related technologies.

Which minerals/metals can we get from the ocean?

The main metals of economic interest located at the seabed are primarily copper, cobalt, nickel, manganese and zinc, all being “energy transition minerals/metals”. Other metals of interest are rare earth elements, silver and gold.

The US Geological Survey estimates that most of the world’s cobalt, nickel and manganese are located at the seabed.

Read more about different types of mineral deposits located at the seabed

How much can recycling contribute?

IEA estimates that increased recycling will only contribute with about 5-15% of the metal supply for several energy transition minerals over the next few decades. The reason for this low percentage is the fast-growing demand combined with extracted minerals being tied up in existing infrastructure we use in our everyday life

As most metals are part of alloys and complex assemblies, it often required extensive work and energy to recycle metals. We need to improve the design for recyclability as well as systems, processes and technologies for efficient recycling. An increased recycling rate is important, so minerals/metals put into the ongoing energy transition can be re-used when this infrastructure reach its end of life.

Can we replace minerals/metals with other materials?

Most of the elements on the periodic table are metals, with many unique and preferable properties. Replacing minerals/metals are in many cases impossible. Alternative materials and design for batteries are a huge research topic. Some metals might be substituted by others in some applications, which could shift the demand between some metals. The demand for the energy transition minerals is expected to grow significantly independent of various scenarios.

Why is GCE Ocean Technology not supporting a moratorium?

GCE Ocean Technology works to accelerate the knowledge gathering about the deep-sea environment and its resources.

A joint effort between research groups and private and public sector is in our opinion the best way to gain the best knowledge and basis for deciding on how to go forwards. A time limited moratorium will in our opinion significantly reduce the effort going into deep-sea research, resulting in a less informed decision about how to protect the deep sea environment and manage its resources.

Could deep sea mining release carbon stored in the sediment as CO2 to the atmosphere?

It is estimated that deep sea mining will have a trivial impact on the ecosystem service of carbon sequestration. Most of the disturbed organic carbon would be redeposited on the seafloor and sequestered. Deep sea sediments contain extremely low quantities of organic matter and the oxygen level in the deep ocean is very low.

Will a “Yes” to the parliament notice automatically imply deep sea mining in Norway?

No - significantly more exploration of the resource potential and environmental implications will have to be performed in addition to technological and economical evaluations.

“Before any possible extraction of the resources, the developers will have to carry out an impact assessment as part of the work with an extraction plan that needs approval from the governing authorities. Such a project-specific impact analysis must go out to consultation."

See the parliament notice (Meld. St. 25) states [translated from Norwegian].

How large areas are expected to be impacted by deep sea mining in Norway?

The area that is suggested opened for exploration by the Norwegian government is 281 200km2.

The Norwegian petroleum directorate expects the mining areas for a sulphide-deposit to be in the range of 0,2-0,5 km2, while for crust it is expected to be in the order of 20km2. For each site a mining period of 1-3 years is expected.

EY estimates a high-case total mining area in the Norwegian sector to be 400km2, which is about 0,14% of the proposed opening area.

Sediment plumes are a key concern for people - extending the impacted areas beyond the mining site. The industry is working with different solutions to minimize such an impact.

A Japanese study from a pilot mining test in 2020 states «Also, though sessile mortality was not observed from the plume even within meters of excavation, it is possible that our study missed some sublethal impacts”.