Arctic lands contain a large amount of critical minerals, including nickel, lithium, and rare earths, essential resources to ecological technologies. Considering the potential environmental, political and cultural consequences, how should Arctic states take advantage of their lands’ richness?
Committee on Industry, Research, and Energy I
Chaired by Maria Koimtzoglou (GR). Covered by Zain Mumtaz (SE)
Executive summary
The Arctic is rich in natural resources, including minerals, metals and fossil fuels. However, climate change has a great and immediate impact on the Arctic ecosystems, and the growing global demand for goods has led to the intensification and exploitation of its resources. Mining activities are greatly promising for the region's development but do not come without consequences. The fragile Arctic environment and the presence of nature-based livelihoods and Indigenous communities pose challenges to mining development.1 Therefore, a balancing act is at play between taking advantage of the Arctic’s natural resources richness and minimising the environmental, political and cultural consequences in doing so.
Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle. But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
Anne Tolvanen, Pasi Eilu, Artti Juutinen, Katja Kangas, Mari Kivinen, Mira Markovaara-Koivisto, Arto Naskali, Veera Salokannel, Seija Tuulentie, Jukka Similä,Mining in the Arctic environment – A review from ecological, socioeconomic and legal perspectives,Journal of Environmental Management,Volume 233, Link 
E. Quillérou,M. Jacquot,,A.Cudennec,D. Bailly, The Arctic: Opportunities, Concerns and Challenges, Link
Rowen, M, Arctic nations are squaring up to exploit the region’s rich natural resources, Link
Huge rare earth metals discovery in Arctic Sweden,BBC News, Link
Matthew Hall, A new Cold War: mining geopolitics in the Arctic circle, Link
Eilu, P., Bjerkgård, T., Franzson, H., Gautneb, H., Häkkinen, T., Jonsson, E., Keiding, J.K., Pokki, J., Raaness, A.,Reginiussen, H., Róbertsdóttir, B.G., Rosa, D., Sadeghi, M., Sandstad, J.S., Stendal, H., Þórhallsson, E.R. & Törmänen T. 2021. The Nordic supply potential of critical metals and minerals for a Green Energy Transition.Nordic Innovation Report. Link
Listen to the audio Topic Overview
“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. Just as melting Arctic glaciers lead to sea-level rise in the eastern Mediterranean, so are the emerging geopolitics of the Arctic impacting how the world’s major powers interact with one another”, Caroline Kennedy-Pipe, the Head of Politics and International Studies at the University of Loughborough underlines. The Arctic area serves as one of the last frontiers not fully exploited of its resources by humans. The receding and thinning sea ice due to climate change creates new opportunities for economic development.2 But what does the Arctic has to offer?
Such as neodymium, praseodymium, terbium and dysprosium.
Transformation of the global energy sector from fossil-based to zero-carbon sources by the second half of this century, reducing energy-related CO2 emissions to mitigate climate change and limit global temperature to within 1.5° of pre-industrial levels.
Raw materials of high importance to the economy and whose supply is associated with a high risk of disruption. With the EU being dependent on the import of minerals more mining activity is a clear trend in most Euro-Arctic regions.
Arctic Circle, parallel, or line of latitude around the Earth, at approximately 66°30′ N. Because of the Earth’s inclination of about 23 1/2° to the vertical, it marks the southern limit of the area within which, for one day or more each year, the Sun does not set (about June 21) or rise (about December 21).
Across Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, The Faroes, Norway (including Svalbard), Sweden, Finland and Russia.
The Arctic region is a vast storehouse of potential resources, particularly rare earth metals.3 These minerals are essential for the Electric-Vehicle (EVs) industry, renewable energy sources, parts of the Green Energy Transition.
The EU is dependent on numerous Critical Raw Materials (CRMs), making mining in the Arctic more attractive. Several mining industries are already operating in the Arctic, through the Arctic, or at the periphery of the Arctic Circle. Some 98% of rare earths used in the EU in 2021 were imported from China with no rare earths currently mined in Europe. Over one million tonnes reported in January 2023 to have been found in Sweden's far north, creating a huge opportunity for Europe, as Swedish Energy Minister Ebba Busch supporting that "electrification, the EU's self-sufficiency and independence from Russia and China will begin in the mine".4 While, China, Russia and the US are all eyeing the Arctic’s resources, heating a new Cold War as Russia pursues its ambition to grow Russian control over global resources, the US is seeking to dismantle Chinese dominance in rare earth minerals, and China is looking to maintain that dominance.6 It is important to underline that with technological advances in the industry, it is now feasible to also explore deep seabed mining.
The rewards for operating in the Arctic are potentially extremely high and attractive, but at high financial, environmental and social costs in an environment that remains ecologically and financially risky.7 Virgin lands as the Arctic has and its local populations’ sovereignty and traditional practices are to be taken seriously under consideration when assessing the risk-opportunity balance on opening up mines and taking advantage of the Arctic’s natural resources.
The Arctic has attracted attention from explorers since the three voyages of Willem Barents in the late 16th century with the oldest record of underground mining (late 12th C) from the Akersberg silver deposit in Oslo. The Arctic has a mining history, with Greenland having its first mining operations starting commercially in the mid-19th century for graphite and copper.8 The Arctic slowly ignited several geological expeditions to see what more it could offer except for luxurious goods. The major geological expeditions at the start of the 20th century revealed the massive presence of mineral resources and paved the way for their large-scale exploitation. Following the growing demand for minerals and the richness of the Arctic, as of 2015, there are some 373 mineral mines in the Arctic.9 What is historically new is the intensive exploitation of these resources by third countries, as the Arctic has always found ways to self-sustain and did not rely on trade, which is now impossible to do due to climate change. The Arctic has been resided by Indigenous populations since time immemorial, establishing rich regional cultures long before the development of colonial settlements and nation-state borders. As a region with ongoing legacies of colonialism, the industrial exploitation of its resources on the altar of conserving the Arctic environment and economic growth raises concerns on whose Arctic it is aimed to do so.
Historical context
NGU – Geological Survey of Norway, Mineral Resources in the Arctic, Link
N.R.Haddaway, S. J. Cooke, P. Lesser, B. Macura, A.E. Nilsson, J. J. Taylorand, K. Rai,Evidence of the impacts of metal mining and the effectiveness of mining mitigation measures on social-ecological systems in Arctic and boreal regions: A systematic map protocol, Link
About PAME, Link
Adam Stępień, Timo Koivurova, Paula Kankaanpää,The Strategic Assessment of Development of the Arctic: An assessment conducted for the European Union ,University of Lapland,Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Link
About ERMA, Link
Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME).10: PAME is one of the UN's six Arctic Council working groups. PAME is the focal point of the Arctic Council’s activities related to protecting and sustainable use of the Arctic marine environment which is affected by mining activities.
A vast autonomous Arctic territory that is currently home to two mines.
The Arctic Council: the main international forum that is directly concerned with the Arctic's sustainable development and environmental protection.
The EU: In 2008, the EU was officially claimed as a legitimate stakeholder in assessing Arctic issues. Relevant activities have taken place under the umbrella of “Arctic Policy and Communication”.11
One of the strongest mining players in the European Arctic, planning to expand oil drilling in previously untouched areas of the Arctic.
European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA).12: ERMA was announced in 2020 as part of an Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials and the publication of the 2020 List of Critical Raw Materials.
Recently identified as Europe's largest deposit of rare earths.
As Russia has landed in the Arctic region and already has the technology and willingness to dominate the industry, it is a considerable stakeholder for discussions, especially political ones.
All eight Arctic states (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and USA) are members of the Arctic Council, as are organisations representing six indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic.
A move campaigners say threatens the fragile ecosystem and could spark a military standoff with Russia.
One for anorthosite, containing titanium deposits, and one for rubies and pink sapphires.
Aiming to assure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats.
At the moment, national legislation is lacking and mining policies in the Arctic do not account for the widespread impact future tailings and waste may have on communities and the resources they rely on.11 However, many challenges extend beyond national borders and the region’s boundaries. The most important policies already in place that can be identified are:
The framework legislation for all activities related to mineral and hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation enforced in 2010 by Greenland Parliament. In accordance with the act, Greenland passed a law restricting mining and exploration of uranium and suspended the development of the Kuannersuit mine (Kvanefjeld).
Mineral Resources Act-Greenland14
Charting a Path towards greater Security and Sustainability with concrete actions described in the Action Plan.
Critical Raw Materials Resilience:
By the European Commission,setting rules and standards to protect surface and groundwater from contamination from mining procedures.
The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC)15
The Mining Waste Directive (2006/21/EC)16
UNCLOS is now generally considered customary international law.17
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
By the European Commission, sets the minimum requirements for improving safety and health protection for workers related to drilling that sets management rules to apply the best available techniques for extraction, treatment, and storage of mineral resources.
Measures in Place
1) Develop resilient value chains for EU industrial ecosystems;
2) Reduce dependency on primary critical raw materials through circular use of resources, sustainable products and innovation;
3) Strengthen domestic sourcing of raw materials in the EU;
4) Diversify sourcing from third countries and remove distortions to international trade, fully respecting the EU’s international obligations.
This means that the convention applies to all states regardless of whether they are parties.UNCLOS,provides notional international governance over the ocean floor.
Antonia Sohns, Mining and Lack of Governance Threaten Arctic Freshwater Supplies, Link 
Consolidation of the Mineral Resources Act-Greenland, Link
About Natura2000, Link
European Commission,The Water Framework Directive(2000/60/EC), Link
European Commission,The Mining Waste Directive (2006/21/EC),Link
Fundamental challenges
The fundamental challenges of mining activity in the Arctic are environmental, cultural, economic, political and legal.
A big part of mining procedures affects people and societies, positively and negatively. The most known negative effects include impacts on the human health of the inhabitants in these areas as well as the workers. Additionally, mining is known to affect the traditional practices of Indigenous peoples. Land-use conflicts are also often present, as are other societal impacts on public health, such as freshwater supplies, and human well-being.20 Additionally, a mine opening in a fragile and raw environment as the Arctic is a major identity change for the region as Arctic countries aren’t industrial and such move will impact its landscape permanently. The risk-opportunity balance is clear in the example of Kiruna, Sweden. The mining company LKAB, to enable continued mining, moved the industrial city's centre three kilometres having 23,000 inhabitants sacrificing their homes for this change, with the majority of them having agreed to it.21 Thanks to this, the major discovery of Europe’s biggest rare earths deposit was found.

Although it is a huge advancement for Europe, is this discovery going to benefit the Arctic, or the major players’ and mining industries benefits? One cannot deny the potential positive impacts of the mining industry, which include local employment and growth in economic activities such as new job openings and advancement of the tourism industry.22 However, it is argued that some industries adopt a rotational working a model, one with a variety of negative social effects on the local community and on the workers themselves.23 Lastly, migrant workers can result in a huge demographic change in a region that has already a conflictual colonial past, thus affecting the local governance and sovereignty of local communities.
As far as the environmental sector goes, there can be positive and negative impacts. As mentioned before, mining operations have certain stages. Starting from the infrastructure, the danger of habitat fragmentation is increased. The area affected by mining is usually large and will not be restricted to the actual mine.18 The nature of the impacts may vary depending on the land, type of resources and technology. Still, cumulatively, with the Arctic’s sensitive ecosystems, there is a need to discuss its lands' long-term recovery. As mining operations include a series of pre-mining, mining and post-miningactivities, their effects are visible in several sectors and for several years. Abandonment, decommissioning and repurposing of mines can also cause significant environmental impacts, for example, soil and water contamination. Another promising yet threatening mining procedure is deep seabed mining. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), this type of mining would have irreversible destructive impacts on deep-sea ecosystems and biodiversity, which could knock on fisheries, livelihoods and food security and compromise ocean carbon, metal and nutrient cycles.19
Potentially, the biggest complications on whether Arctic mining will serve as a positive or negative omen for the region lies within the geopolitics behind certain decisions. The Arctic is governed not only by the EU or the UN but by some organisations and important Nations that strive to gain control of the Arctic and its resources. While certain plans had been set in motion, the war between Russia and Ukraine led to the EU wanting to be more independent on its resources24 and Russia aspiring to control such resources.25 Not even the European Nordic countries can indeed agree on their policies, with Norway and Greenland taking a stand in favour of intensified mining, including deep seabed mining, whereas the other European countries are still sceptical of such behaviours.26
On the other hand, since the reasoning behind intensifying the Arctic’s mining is partly the Green Transition, should the Arctic be able to provide the EU and the world with the needed minerals and metals, the production of EVs and other green energy powered machines can become more eco-friendly and sustainable.
Which can include roads, railway tracks, and power lines.
Is defined as the process during which a large expanse of habitat is transformed into a number of smaller patches of smaller total area isolated from each other by a matrix of habitats unlike the original.
Mineral exploration, mine planning, mine establishment.
Decommissioning, rehabilitation.
System in which employees spend a certain number of days working on site, after which they return to their home communities for a specified rest period.
Daniele Lafrance,Martin McCallum,Into the Depths: International Law and Deep Seabed Mining - HillNotes, Link
Antonia Sohns, Mining and Lack of Governance Threaten Arctic Freshwater Supplies, Link
E. Quillérou,M. Jacquot,,A.Cudennec,D. Bailly, The Arctic: Opportunities, Concerns and Challenges, Link
Hilde-Gunn Bye,Historic Opening: An Arctic Community Moves to Make Room for Mining, Link
Antonia Sohns, Mining and Lack of Governance Threaten Arctic Freshwater Supplies, Link
Alexandra Middleton,Fly-in Fly-Out Workers in the Arctic: The Need for More Workforce Transparency in the Arctic, The Arctic Institute – Center for Circumpolar Security Studies, Link
Haddaway, N.R., Smith, A., Taylor, J.J. et al. Evidence of the impacts of metal mining and the effectiveness of mining mitigation measures on social–ecological systems in Arctic and boreal regions: a systematic map, Environ Evid, Link
Claudia Patricolo,EU presents plan to become independent from Russian energy sources, CEENERGYNEWS, Link
Matthew Hall, A new Cold War: mining geopolitics in the Arctic circle, Link
Local impact
Several metals key to a green transportation transition can be found in Arctic Europe. But they lie beneath a landscape vital to the Indigenous people's way of life. “Colonialism has dressed up in nice green finery and we are told that we have to give up our territories and our livelihoods to save the world because of climate change,” said Aili Keskitalo, the president of the Sámi Parliament.27 “Green colonialism” adds additional layers to existing burdens the Arctic’s Indigenous people face with the Inupiat being torn between promoting lucrative oil drilling and protecting the waters they hunt in,28 justifying the locals calling for better handling of the wildlife of the region.29 Although the economic benefits might be visible to some, locals will not accept this change in their lives with them, as they are not willing to take the environmental and cultural risk.30

Greenland’s new government led by Inuit Ataqatigiit party, going against Australian mining firm, banned the exploration of deposits containing uranium concentration more than 100 ppm.31 The government does support mining activity but it is not willing to risk the health of its people and of the environment. On the other hand, Norway’s government has given the green light for deep-sea mining as early as 2023 with environmental organisations including WWF calling it to stop plans and conduct environmental studies that consider the local communities of Svalbard and the marine ecosystems.32
Melody Schreiber, The Arctic's Indigenous peoples bear a disproportionate burden of the world's response to climate change, leaders say, ArcticToday, Link
Tom Kizzia,Whale Hunters of the Warming Arctic, Link
Elisabeth Ulven, Tonne Sutterud, Norway plans to drill for oil in untouched Arctic areas, The Guardian, Link
Rebbeca Spring, Inuit Speak Out Against Expansion Of Arctic Iron Mine, Community Concerned Over Wildlife Impacts, WWF, Link
Greenland passes bill to ban uranium exploration and mining,Mining Technology, Link
Nerijus Adomaitis,Environmentalists call on Norway to stop plans for deep-sea mining, Reuters, Link
Mining in the Arctic can have strong economic benefits for local communities and the EU but also have detrimental impacts on those communities. While new job vacancies, technological infrastructure improvement, and making the Arctic more accessible are all part of the equation, the EU and the Arctic need to find sustainable ways of mining. It is essential that the fragile ecosystems of the Arctic are not disturbed and the people living there are not forced to leave their homes. With the proper research and experiments in the Arctic region, potentially mining companies can take advantage of these lands while being respectful towards the environment and the culture of the region. It is essential to assess the risk-opportunity equilibrium to make decisions on sustainable mining in the Arctic.What is the risk of opening up new mines? Should only mines with minerals related to the Green Transition be opened?How can Indigenous people be more involved in the decision-making process? It is clear that the situation is not black or white as the matter is quite complex and involves numerous stakeholders.
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Motion for a resolution
Submitted by:
Ivan Belsky (CH), Yasmin Irena Gruden (RS), Layla Hannafin (IE), Nick Khabelashvili (GE), Tobias Mørup (DK), An- ton Perederii (UA), Pietro Pilotti (IT), Dominik Pływacz (PL), Fredrick Reynolds (UK), Monika Schmidt (DE), Matilda Solander (SE), Šimon Špilar (CZ), Berre Wiels (BE), Andre Zhigulin (ES),Maria Koimtzoglou (Chairperson, GR)
The European Youth Parliament aims to address responsible mining in the Arctic while considering the environmental and health concerns resource extraction imposes. A strong focus is put on ensuring Europe’s independence regarding critical minerals while providing justice for Indigenous People affected by Arctic mining operations. Furthermore, the committee emphasises the need to satisfy the demand for said minerals for the continued development of ecological technologies. Lastly, the necessity to guarantee effective cooperation in the Arctic Region is underlined,

A. Concerned by the increased opportunistic tendencies of Arctic and non-Arctic states in claiming mining rights within the Arctic region due to new discoveries of rare earth minerals,

B Concerned by the fact that China provides 98% of the EU’s rare earth minerals, highlighting the EU’s dependency on China for the development of eco-friendly technologies,

C. Bearing in mind that, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a third of the natural World’s Heritage Sites are under the threat of industry exploitation,

D. Reiterating the widespread concern in the scientific community about deep seabed mining (DSM)1 and the irreversible impact it would have on maritime ecosystems,

E. Observing that the lack of recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ culture and traditional practices, such as reindeer herding, leads to the opening of mines on sacred Indigenous sites,

F. Saddened by the negative consequences that the extraction of rare earth minerals poses on natural ecosystems, such as noise pollution, air pollution by heavy metals and Greenhouse Gasses, and the contamination of soil and water as a result of acid mine drainage,

G. Concerned by the absence of international legislation on mining operations,

H. Further concerned by the lack of cooperation amongst stakeholders involved in the Arctic mining industry,

I. Alarmed by chemical deposits and other toxic heavy metals left in abandoned mines that severely damage the environment by leading to habitat destruction, decreased biodiversity, and extinction of the region’s wildlife,

J. Concerned by the fact that essential metals like copper, cobalt and nickel are expected to run out by 2050, due to over extraction,

K. Alarmed by the negative effects mining has on local residents’ such as:
1. forcing them to leave their homes and land
2. health issues related to dust emissions from the mining operations,

L. Further alarmed by the risk of contamination of land and water resources as a result of Arctic mining;
1. Urges Arctic States to formally recognise all Indigenous People’s cultural heritage sites as non- mining zones;

2. Calls upon Arctic States to improve the relationship between Indigenous People and mining companies by:
a. disseminating information about Indigenous communities’ traditions,
b. establishing forums for dialogue about decisions regarding mining operations between mining companies and Indigenous People;

3. Suggests the Arctic Council to promote the representation of Indigenous communities in local governments;

4. Invites the Chief Trade Enforcement Officer2 to enact an EU-wide protectionist policy regulating rare earths’ supply sources by:
a. subsidising mining operations in the European Arctic,
b. raising tariffs on importers from outside the European Economic Area3;

5. Appeals to the Directorate General Enterprise and Industry (DG-ENTR) in collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)4 to offer monetary incentives to the Arctic States for selecting projects by European companies;

6. Encourages Arctic States to ensure that the mining of rare earth minerals and metals in the Arctic region contributes to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by:
a. establishing environmental taxes for private companies reluctant to invest in innovative research for sustainable mining techniques,
b. grant tax exemptions to companies that gradually introduce and promote sustainable mining practices;

7. Urges the EU-PolarNet5 to research and develop technologies that increase the safety of mining in fragile ecosystems;

8. Invites the Arctic Council’s working group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment to develop an eco-friendly strategy for DSM that can mitigate the environmental damage, currently used techniques have on the Arctic Ocean’s biodiversity;

9. Calls upon the Arctic Council’s working group on Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna to ask mining companies to compensate local residents who are negatively affected by mining operations;

10. Urges mining companies to assess the issue of environmental losses in the regions in which they operate by:
a. conducting extensive environmental research on the sites,
b. covering the expenses for restoring the affected natural ecosystems;

11. Asks the European Raw Materials Alliance to create guidelines, on the proper treatment of abandoned mines in the Arctic region;

12. Calls upon the Arctic Council to introduce legislation on the disposal of waste material generated from mining in the Arctic following the example of the EU Directive 2006/21/EC6;

13. Suggests that EU Member States promote research on repurposing already extracted materials in order to prolong the lifespan of the resources.
Deep-sea mining is the process of retrieving mineral deposits from the deep seabed – the ocean below 200m.
The Chief Trade Enforcement Officer implements and enforces trade rules in the EU and with its trading partners.
The EEA includes EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It allows them to be part of the EU ’s single market.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is an intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries aiming to stimulate economic progress and world trade.
The EU-PolarNet is a European network to co-develop and advance European Polar Research actions and to give evidence-based advice to policy making processes.

Directive on the management of waste from extractive industries.
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