Updating space mining

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Updating space mining

#1  Postby Alan C » Nov 08, 2019 8:09 pm

I thought I'd see if there are any developments or news about this, the last things I had heard about were Planetary Resources.

https://interestingengineering.com/mini ... he-economy

One of my reasons was thinking about this matter;

The endeavor is even more heated if we take into account that many of these raw materials that are indispensable for modern industry such as zinc, tin, silver, copper, lead, etc., could be exhausted on Earth throughout this century.
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Re: Updating space mining

#2  Postby Macdoc » Nov 09, 2019 4:17 am

zinc, tin, silver, copper, lead, etc., could be exhausted on Earth throughout this century.


This is a crock.....

Known worldwide copper resources are estimated at nearly 5.8 trillion pounds of which only about 0.7 trillion pounds (12%) have been mined throughout history... and nearly all of that is still in circulation, because copper's recycling rate is higher than that of any other engineering metal.


Global zinc reserves were 233.7 million tonnes as of January 2018. The largest share of these was in Australia, with 27.4% of the global total, followed by China and Peru. Between 2019 and 2022, global zinc supply is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.8%, to 15.7 Metric Ton in 2022 with strong support by increases in production from Australia, Peru, India and the US.

In 2018, although global zinc supply increased by 1.5% to 13.4Mt, it was still short by 1.1Mt, of the global demand of 14.5Mt in that year. Increases in demand from China, Germany, the US, and Belgium were the major factors behind the increase in the global demand. The gap between demand and supply is expected to narrow and eventually the market will move into a surplus in 2022.


Again without accounting for recycling ....

There is simply no rational economic reason for mining asteroids at this point in human development of technology or need
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Re: Updating space mining

#3  Postby Hermit » Nov 09, 2019 8:05 am

Alan C wrote:
The endeavor is even more heated if we take into account that many of these raw materials that are indispensable for modern industry such as zinc, tin, silver, copper, lead, etc., could be exhausted on Earth throughout this century.

Panic merchants. Note the weasel word "could" :lol: . There really is no way of determining how many metric tons of those resources we have on earth because the amount depends on how much of it is economically feasible to dig out of it. At worst extracting zinc, tin, silver, copper, lead, etc. will become more expensive, but (unlike fossil fuels) we are not about to run out of any of it by the end of (throughout :scratch: ) this century, the next one or the ones after. And we have barely begun to scratch the surface of the crust, so to speak.
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Re: Updating space mining

#4  Postby Macdoc » Nov 09, 2019 8:34 am

Seawater alone has immense resources



Over 40 minerals and metals contained in seawater, their extraction likely to increase in the future

https://www.miningweekly.com/article/ov ... ep_id:3650


snip
The extraction of minerals and metals from seawater is not science fiction; it is not an option for the future. It is happening now and is likely to increase in the future. Increasingly, the question is not the technology; it is the prices the markets are willing to pay.
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Re: Updating space mining

#5  Postby Ironclad » Nov 09, 2019 3:43 pm

Asteroid mining will come, when we are up there, not before. I've read sci-fi :coffee:
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Re: Updating space mining

#6  Postby Macdoc » Nov 09, 2019 10:59 pm

If the ion engine pans out maybe for fabrication use IN space. More likely chasing water sources or HE3
Helium-3 Power Generation
Helium-3 (He3) is gas that has the potential to be used as a fuel in future nuclear fusion power plants. There is very little helium-3 available on the Earth. However, there are thought to be significant supplies on the Moon. Several governments have subsequently signalled their intention to go to the Moon to mine helium-3 as a fuel supply. Such plans may come to fruition within the next two to three decades and trigger a new Space Race.

https://www.explainingthefuture.com/helium3.html
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Re: Updating space mining

#7  Postby Alan C » Nov 10, 2019 12:40 am

Ah right, so not so big a rush to supplement what we can scrape from the crust down here then. It might still be useful to use moon/asteroid resources to build certain things [once we figure out zero-g processing/manufacturing] rather than have to launch it into orbit?
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Re: Updating space mining

#8  Postby felltoearth » Nov 10, 2019 1:28 am

It would probably be more feasible to mine a landfill for recycled resources.
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Re: Updating space mining

#9  Postby Hermit » Nov 10, 2019 2:10 am

felltoearth wrote:It would probably be more feasible to mine a landfill for recycled resources.

Something like that has been happening in my neighbourhood for more than ten years. Hundreds of millions of tons of what was considered overburden have accumulated next to the dozen or so open-cut iron ore mines surrounding my town over several decades. New technology made it economically viable to comb through most of those giant mounds and retrieve ore from them that was once considered not worth filtering out.
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Re: Updating space mining

#10  Postby The_Piper » Nov 10, 2019 12:11 pm

Obligatory accompanying music for the thread.


There was a recent article about potentially printing solar panels in space with a new material. https://www.nasa.gov/feature/glenn/2019/building-solar-panels-in-space-might-be-as-easy-as-clicking-print
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Re: Updating space mining

#11  Postby Ken Fabian » Dec 08, 2019 12:31 am

Space mining does seem like a subject that could do with a good dose of rational scepticism...

Helium3? Seriously? When does speculative hypothesising cross the line into pure BS? Helium3 as a major commodity, driving investment in moon mining operations crosses that line somewhere. Unless I missed something there are no fusion power plants running on He3 and no serious prospect of them. Anyone starts talking shares in He3 mining and you should hold tight to your credit card! Any space mining has to start somewhere - and it won't be He3.

Platinum? As far as I am aware it is confidently expected to be present in metallic asteroids at proportions that, if it were native platinum in placer deposits on Earth would be considered a fabulous find. The estimate have to be based on 10's of ppm up to more 100ppm of Platinum Group Metals found in nickel-iron meteorite samples. Near pure bits of Platinum in sands and silts is not the same as mixed PGM's alloyed at low concentrations in Ni-Fe. Making alloys is easy. Unmaking them is hard. Of all possible ores of Platinum I suspect this would be one of the most difficult to refine.

Gold will have the same problem - it is there but extracting it will be very difficult and costly. What there is is nickel-iron with interesting impurities, not impossible to refine precious metals from but not necessarily profitable. Adding the difficulties and costs for doing it in space will make that even more problematic.

I suspect the crude nickel-iron itself is the single most valuable material readily available from asteroids - worth a few thousand USD per metric ton perhaps; if some refinery thinks it can get the precious metals out worth a bit more than nickel-iron alloy that doesn't have them. I don't know how much the transport costs for delivery of Ni-Fe to Earth would be but there is a lot of rocket propulsion needed to de-orbit a load, plus repackaging it to land it safely. For all the claims moving stuff around in space being easy it won't in fact be cheap or easy. I think unless space mining can deliver crude nickel-iron to Earth at low enough cost that a few thousand USD is profitable it won't be viable. Use in space for space based purposes? Sure, but what purposes. What are the overall economics of activities that space mined metals make cheaper? If it is a taxpayer supported research station then it isn't paying for itself, it isn't self supporting and Earth's taxpayers are paying for it. It has to be economically viable to achieve sustained growth.

Water? (For use in space.) Like with Ni-Fe, what exactly will those space based activities be? Apart from the remote sensing and communications activities there is an extreme lack of any that have income potential. To expect the profitability to emerge on it's own, just by (taxpayers) building space stations that somehow create opportunities no-one saw looks naive.

Space manufacturing? I am not aware of any important, high value (muti-millions per ton) materials that can only be made in space, let alone any that would be profitable.

Tourism? That will be a luxury payed for by Earth based wealth - a consequence of Earth's abundant wealth, not a consequence of the wealth making opportunities of Space. Building a resort on the top of Mt Everest won't make Mt Everest a viable place to colonise and building a resort in space won't make space a viable place to colonise.

Space Dreams are fine - I like a good SF story too - but presenting space mining as a great economic opportunity crosses the line from optimistic hypotheticals into BS.
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Re: Updating space mining

#12  Postby Macdoc » Dec 08, 2019 6:16 am

Space manufacturing - some may think you wrong.

https://medium.com/made-in-space/the-fu ... 33a2de9f6d

Water outside the gravity well certainly has value for space exploration and fuel manufacture.
It's not a given we will do much on other planets - even the moon..neither is it out of the question and for that ...water is needed.

Other speculative commodities like metals ....we have lots.
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Re: Updating space mining

#13  Postby Ken Fabian » Dec 08, 2019 7:57 am

Space manufacturing - some may think you wrong.

We've been in space for >60 years and we have a notable example of something that can be made in space but not on Earth that is potentially commercially viable? That does not sound like an abundance of space manufacturing opportunities to me. Meanwhile work continues on improving the production of the same kinds of optic fibres on Earth - it would be a big gamble to invest in the space production rather than in further improving Earth based production. That some space manufactured product could emerge is possible - but it would have to be very high value to afford the multi-million USD per ton launch costs (using Earth resources). There has to be a very large pre-investment for any attempts to use materials sourced from space so there has to be an exceptionally compelling business case first if we are talking about space mining as an actual enterprise and not as taxpayer supported demonstration of Earth based wealth and technology. I keep coming back to the need for space based activities being commercially viable; I don't see any way to "bootstrap" our way around that requirement.

Water outside the gravity well certainly has value for space exploration and fuel manufacture.

Space exploration does not make money, it costs money. It is not and may never be a source of significant demand for materials sourced from space; that would make space exploration cost more money, not less. Even if it could lower the costs it won't make space exploration profitable - the profitability of the space mining would be an upstream eddy in a river running downhill.

For space mining to succeed it needs to be genuinely profitable - which needs the in space uses to be profitable. They aren't - and it isn't a case of a little bit better to cross that line; huge leaps needed, not small steps.
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