The Sleeping Giant: Norway’s Rich Mining History and Its Resurgence

Norway, a country known for its breathtaking fjords and rich cultural heritage, has a deep-rooted history in mining that dates back centuries. This article delves into the fascinating journey of Norway’s mining sector, highlighting its historical significance, the reasons for its dormancy, and the potential it holds for the future.

Teako Minerals is actively seeking copper and cobalt in Norway. With a keen interest in the Vaddas-Birtavarre district, Teako aims to tap into the vast mineral potential of the region.

A Glimpse into Norway’s Mining Past

The mining history of Norway is as old as the country itself. The first significant copper-zinc discovery was made at Lokken around 1650, marking the beginning of Norway’s journey into the mining world. By 1654, underground mining had commenced, and the country was on its way to becoming a significant player in the global mining industry.

The Lokken discovery is particularly intriguing. The outcrop, which led to the discovery of a world-class copper deposit, appears unspectacular at first glance. Yet, beneath its subtle exterior lay vast reserves of copper, waiting to be unearthed.

Following the Lokken discovery, other major mining districts emerged, including the Roros district in Trondelag and the Vaddas-Birtavarre in northern Norway. These districts further solidified Norway’s position as a mining powerhouse.

The Dormant Years

Despite its early successes, the mining and exploration activities in Norway went into hibernation in the 1980s. This dormancy was primarily due to two factors:

  1. Economic Challenges: The global decline in metal prices, especially copper which plummeted to around US 60c/lb, rendered many underground mines in Norway uneconomical.
  2. Oil Discovery: The discovery of oil in Norway led to a significant workforce migration to the oil sector, further impacting the mining industry.

As a result, systematic exploration activities were limited over the next 40 years. Many potential ore deposits in former mining districts remained untested, and greenfield areas were largely unexplored. But is that about to change?.

The Catalyst of the Green Energy Transition

Oil and gas have been the primary contributors to Norway’s wealth. However, both the industry and government are keen on discovering alternatives. This aligns with the global shift towards green energy. Raw materials, especially those used in electric vehicle batteries, like copper and cobalt, play a pivotal role in this transition.

Norway is at the forefront in Europe when it comes to electric vehicle adoption. In 2021, 65% of new car registrations in Norway were all-electric battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and 28% were hybrids. The Norwegian Government has set an ambitious goal: all new cars should be BEVs by 2025.

Norway is a significant producer of various raw materials. These include ground calcium carbonate, flake graphite, olivine, silicon, iron ore, and titanium minerals. Most of Norway’s mines and quarries are located along its coast, with natural gas and petroleum fields primarily offshore.

Both Norway (July 2023) and the EU (March 2023) have issued policies stating their support for the discovery and mining of critical minerals like copper, cobalt and lithium.

Economic Benefits

The mineral industry significantly contributes to Norway’s economy. In 2020, minerals were sold for NOK11,960m, marking a 2.2% increase from 2019. The mineral industry also provided employment to 4,646 people in 2020, indicating its importance in the job market.

The Norwegian Government has set clear objectives for the mineral industry. They aim for a profitable industry with robust value-creation and growth. Additionally, they envision the Norwegian mineral industry to be among the world’s most environmentally friendly sectors.

The European Green Deal and the new EU Industrial Strategy emphasize the importance of raw materials. The growth of diversified, durable supply chains of sustainable raw materials is crucial for Europe’s green and digital transformations.

The Global Demand for Copper and Cobalt

The global demand for copper and cobalt is expected to surge in the coming years. These metals are crucial for various industries, including electronics and electric vehicles. However, the current exploration activities for copper and cobalt are not sufficient to meet this growing demand.

Sustainable Minerals in the Nordic Region

The Nordic region, with its vast mineral resources, is poised to play a significant role in the global transition to a green economy. The Sustainable Minerals program, initiated by Nordic Innovation, aims to foster innovation and sustainable solutions in the mineral value chain. This program focuses on creating a competitive and sustainable Nordic mineral industry that can contribute to the green transition globally.

The program emphasizes:

  • Sustainable Production: Promoting methods that reduce the environmental footprint of mineral production.
  • Innovation: Encouraging new technologies and solutions that can revolutionize the mineral industry.
  • Collaboration: Building strong partnerships between Nordic countries to leverage their combined strengths.

The Nordic region’s commitment to sustainable mineral production, combined with its rich mineral resources, positions it as a key player in the global mineral industry’s future.

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