Norwegian EEZ data

Estimated Norwegian EEZ Resources

On Tuesday January 9th 2024, the Norwegian parliament voted 80-20 in favour of allowing exploration for seabed minerals in their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This was the result of years of analysis and work to quantify the size of the opportunity and the potential environmental impact of extraction.

The proposed area of exploration lies to the Northeast of Norway, primarily on mid-oceanic ridges between the remote uninhabited island of Jan Mayen to the South, and the Svalbard peninsula to the North:

Map of the Norwegian EEZ with proposed areas for deep-sea mining

This decision was accompanied by a large volume of data, including various samples and resources estimates from the Norwegian Offshore Directorate, which we will outline below:

Subsea Mineral Formation

The Norwegian Offshore Directorate has sampled Seafloor Massive Sulphides and Cobalt Rich Crusts in various locations in the Norwegian Sea, which lies between Norway to the East, Iceland to the South and Greenland to the East.

The Norwegian Sea is characterised by the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge, a slow-spreading mid-ocean ridge system. The North American tectonic plate lies to the East, the Eurasian tectonic plate lies to the West, and both plates are moving away from each other at a rate of around 0.8cm per year. This creates a central axial valley (or spreading trench) where volcanic activity occurs in the form of black smokers.

The Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge comprises 4 main ridges in the area of interest; the Knipovitch Ridge to the North between Svalbard and Greenland; Mohn's Ridge in the centre between Norway and Greenland; the shorter Jan Mayen Fracture Zone towards the small island of Jan Mayen; the Kolbeinsey Ridge between Jan Mayen and Iceland. Subsea minerals have been sampled in various locations along all of these formations.

Map of proven subsea mineral occurrences in the Norwegian EEZ (A) Map of the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge (AMOR) system depicting the Knipovich and Mohns Ridges north of the Jan Mayen fracture zone (JMFZ) and Kolbeinsey Ridge south of the JMFZ. The black rectangle at the northern Kolbeinsey Ridge marks the study area that is shown in more detail in (B) and (C).
Source: "The Seven Sisters Hydrothermal System: First Record of Shallow Hybrid Mineralization Hosted in Mafic Volcaniclasts on the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge", Pedersen et al.
Section through the Earth's Crust in the Norwegian EEZ Section through the Earth's Crust in the Northern Mohn's Ridge, showing faulting and flank faults. Source: Norwegian Offshore Directorate

Separation of the tecotonic plates causes molten rock to rise to the seafloor, creating eruptions, forming new seabed and despositing subsea minerals along the ridge.

Towards the centre of the ridge, mineral rich vent fluids flow from deep underground to the surface, where they form vent chimneys. When the superheated mineral rich water comes into contact with the cold ocean, it causes minerals to precipitate out and form black chimney-like structures around each vent. Samples of these chimneys indicate that they are rich in Copper, Zinc, Manganese and Iron. They may also contain interesting quantities of Gold, Silver and Cobalt.

Flank faults in the rock caused by the continual separation of plates at the ridge may allow smaller chimneys to form on the edges of the ridge. These flank faults also cause the seabed to become disrupted, undulating, and "mountaineous", in turn creating the hills and crests on which cobalt-rich crusts deposit. Samples of these crusts indicate that they are rich in Manganese, Cobalt, Iron, Titanium and Vanadium, along with Rare Earth Elements including Scandium, Neodymium, Terbium and Dysprosium.

Model of subsea mineral formation in the Loki's Castle vent field
A conceptual biogeochemical model of the Loki's Castle Vent Field. (1) The high-temperature vent fluid is characterized by high CH4, H2, and NH4+ concentrations in addition to H2S (Pedersen et al., 2010). (2) The H2S, H2and CH4 support growth of Epsilonproteobacteria of the genera Sulfurimonas and Sulfurovum and gammaproteobacterial Methylococcales, respectively, in biofilms covering the black smoker chimneys (Dahle et al., 2013, 2015). (3) Sulfurovum forms large filamentous structures with sheaths of a heat resistant biopolymer (Stokke et al., 2015). (4) Subsurface mixing with percolating seawater and associated geochemical and microbial processes lead to sulfate reduction (Eickmann et al., 2014) and depletion of H2 in the low-temperature fluids discharged in the barite field. H2S in the diffuse venting fluids in the barite field supports microorganisms in the microbial mat on top of the barite chimneys (5), in the chimney exterior (6), interior (7), and in the hydrothermal sediment (8). CH4 supports microorganisms in the sediment and in the chimney interior and exterior, whereas NH4+ may be utilized in the surface sediment densely colonized by the tubeworm Sclerolinum contortum (Kongsrud and Rapp, 2012). The moderate fluid flow through the barite chimneys support biofilms of Sulfurimonas (5) forming delicate networks of single cells interconnected with EPS.
Source: "Novel Barite Chimneys at the Loki's Castle Vent Field Shed Light on Key Factors Shaping Microbial Communities and Functions in Hydrothermal Systems", Pedersen et al.

Sample Locations

Seabed Massive Sulphides and Cobalt-Rich Crusts have been sampled in a variety of locations along the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge system. Data from these samples have been used by the Norwegian Offshore Directorate to create a resource estimate.

Map of proven subsea mineral occurrences in the Norwegian EEZ Proven seabed massive sulphide and manganese crust occurrences in the Norwegian EEZ. Source: University of Bergen and Norwegian Offshore Directorate

Resource Estimate

The Norwegian Offshore Directorate's Resource Assessment estimates around 310 million tons of offshore minerals, including around 38 million tons of Copper and 3 million tons of Rare Earth Elements:

Sulphide Deposits
Manganese Crusts
Copper 38100000 - 38100000
Zinc 45000000 - 45000000
Gold 2317 - 2317
Silver 85200 - 85200
Cobalt 1000000 3058100 4058100
Manganese - 185000000 185000000
Magnesium - 24100000 24100000
Titanium - 8400000 8400000
Vanadium - 1918800 1918800
Tungsten - 80300 80300
Rare Earth Elements + Ytrrium - 3154200 3154200


"Resource Estimate Summary"

Norwegian Offshore Directorate

Phillip Gales is a serial entrepreneur who has built tech companies in various heavy industries including Oil & Gas, Construction, Real Estate and Supply Chain Logistics.

Phillip holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, and an MEng in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cambridge, specialising in Machine Intelligence.