Advancing Mining has been reporting on the space mining phenomenon for several years as new developments and advances continue. Some of the latest news, reported by Mining.com, is that European scientists have announced plans to start mining the moon as early as 2025, to mine and process regolith for useful materials such as water, oxygen, metals, and an isotope called helium-3, which may prove useful for fueling future fusion reactors. Helium-3 is a waste-free source of nuclear energy thought to be worth trillions of dollars. According to the article, both India and China are also interested in extracting helium-3 from the moon. Beijing has already landed on the moon twice, with more missions to follow.
With new space mining endeavors increasing every year, researchers at the Colorado School of Mines are calling for policies to be developed now to ensure the advancement of the burgeoning industry. According to the school’s web site, four professors from the Mines Center for Space Resources and Payne Institute for Public Policy were co-authors on a recently published paper in the journal Issues in Science and Technology of the National Academy of Sciences that sets out a framework for new national and international policy related to the development and use of space resources. The paper represents the first of many planned collaborations between the Payne Institute and the Center for Space Resources on issues of science and policy related to space resources.
In 2015, the U.S. Congress passed the Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act of 2015, a commercial space bill that defines space and asteroid resources as well as property rights. In 2018, Luxembourg passed a law that defines licensing of resources mined in space, the first European country to do so. But setting legal guidelines for asteroid mining is a complicated matter. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 is the only international regulation and it bans property rights in space.
As efforts to mine for new resources are progressing, so are technologies aimed at reprocessing, recycling, and recovery of existing resources. For example, some mining companies have developed novel reprocessing technologies to extract valuable metals, including rare earth metals, from discarded mine tailings. There is also a great deal of interest in technologies for recycling electronic products to recover gold, platinum, and rare earths. Analytical technologies including both laboratory and portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) instruments can accurately identify recovered metals from either source.
To learn more about mining in space, or about how portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers can help find the good stuff here on Earth by providing fast acquisition of geochemical data for ore deposit modeling, check out this recommended reading list: