The mining industry has been struggling to innovate for a while, with many major companies failing to meet analyst expectations over the past years. While 2019 is seeing a slew of major, multi-billion-dollar acquisitions in the sector as companies look to invigorate their operations, the coming future could see a completely new source of these precious metals. While the concept of mining our moon and asteroids has long been the domain of science fiction, a new report today indicates that this could become a possibility as soon as 2025.
European scientists have announced plans to begin moon mining operations within six years. While our moon and orbiting asteroids are estimated at having billions worth in precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and gold, this group of scientists will instead be harvesting a waste-free source of nuclear energy estimated to be worth trillions of dollars.
According to Mining.com, the scientists in question are planning to launch a lander on the lunar surface to mine a material called regolith, which asides from creating water, oxygen, and other metals when processed, yields a rare isotype called helium-3, which could fuel future fusion reactors as an alternative to uranium.
A dust-like material, regolith, covers most of the surface of the moon as a result of billions of years worth of meteor impacts. Other countries, such as India and China, have speculated on harvesting Helium-3 from the moon before, despite the logistical challenges.
According to estimates, there are around one million tonnes of the rare isotype on the moon, although only a quarter of that could feasibly be brought to the Earth. Despite this, such a quantity of helium-3 could be enough to meet the entire planets energy needs for up to 200 to 500 years. As such, experts currently appraise the isotype at being worth around $5 billion a tonne.
As one can imagine, this lucrative opportunity has encouraged many nations and companies to work towards making moon mining a reality. Back in 2015, former US President Barack Obama signed a law that granted US citizens the right to own resources mined in space.
This has been seen as a major boost to encourage private companies to explore the possibility of asteroid and moon mining as well as develop the necessary technologies to do so. Other countries around the world, such as Canada and Luxembourg, have been moving to position themselves as leaders in the possible space mining industry that is to come.
Asides from the moon, asteroid mining is seen as just as lucrative. There are over 750,000 asteroids in space so far, although most are in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter – too far away for potential mining targets. However, there are around 17,000 asteroids near Earth that can potentially be harvested by companies. Fortune covered a story where one asteroid passing near our planet in 2015 was estimated at containing up to $5.4 trillion worth in precious metals, most of that coming from platinum.
Currently, it’s almost impossible for investors or speculators to get involved in the space mining industry. However, it’s very much possible that in several years that industry could end up ballooning into something much bigger. Just as few knew about bitcoin several years ago before it exploded, the space mining industry could see a similar explosion in the years to come, and it will be those who were informed about it’s potential that will see tremendous gains in the years to come.