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IMR believes impact assessment fails to take into account knowledge gaps

Sea floor

According to marine scientists, we know little about the natural environment in the impact assessment area.

Photo: Illustrative photo: Mareano / HI

According to marine scientists, it fails to take into account important gaps in our knowledge about the natural environment and bottom currents in the impact assessment area.

This article was originally published in January 2023.

“The background reports on which this impact assessment is based document large gaps in our scientific knowledge about the hydrography, species composition, habitats and ecosystems throughout the area”, says Frode Vikebø, a Research Director at the Institute of Marine Research (IMR). 

The IMR therefore considers it impossible to assess the impacts of exploring for and extracting deep-sea minerals in the affected area. 

“That is impossible if we do not know what lives in the area or understand the connections between the various species and ecosystems there”, says Vikebø.

Translated summary of the Institute of Marine Research’s consultation response

Knowledge base

The background reports for the present Impact Assessment (hereafter IA) document large gaps in our knowledge about the  nature conditions and bottom currents in the assessment area. The IA gives little importance to these gaps and shows no understanding of the fact that this lack of knowledge makes it impossible to objectively assess the impacts of mineral extraction. This contrasts exactly what the aim of the investigation phase should be: to shed light on the identified impacts of exploration, extraction, and the cessation of mining activities.

Rate of knowledge acquisition

Under the Norwegian  Seabed Minerals Act, the government may  demand knowledge about nature conditions to be acquired for an IA in conjunction with a plan for extraction being submitted for approval of permit by the license holder. This means that even though an almost complete absence of knowledge about the nature conditions already has been documented, the Ministry does not appear to take the necessary steps to immediately start the time-consuming work of filling scientific gaps so that future IAs associated with extraction licences can be founded on an adequate knowledge base.

Description of procedures

The present IA should establish a clearer plan for how existing scientific gaps shall be filled, for example by opening areas for mineral activities in small stages while we build up our knowledge in parallel, and by imposing strict requirements for knowledge-based IAs for individual licences. The knowledge obtained would then facilitate, at an early stage, the tailoringof 1) standardised and independent licence-specific IAs, 2) systems for assessing impacts and risks, and 3) new standards for monitoring this kind of industrial activity.


The Institute of Marine Research cannot see that the present IA satisfies what one would expect of Norway as an ocean and coastal state  which emphasises the importance of knowledge-based, sustainable management practices. If mining were to be allowed in the assessment area as set out in the IA, it would  impair Norway’s reputation as a fishing nation and reliable partner for the ocean.

Read an English translation of our consultations response (PDF)

Read the original consultation response here (PDF in Norwegian).