After a week of vacation being almost totally off the grid, it’s great to get back in the saddle. In today’s guest post, Emerson’s Juan Carlos Bravo of the metals & mining industry team provides perspectives on the availability of key minerals here on Earth.
You may have seen the announcement of Planetarium Resources Incorporated and their decision to start mining asteroids for several metal and mineral resources for use in various industries. Their objective is to make mining more environmentally friendly and economical.There has been much discussion around this idea, but one of the best things I have read so far is a Wall Street Journal article, Exhausting Earth’s resources? Not so fast (subscription required). It puts into question the viability of mining in space and explains why none of the big mining companies is in support of this endeavor.
First, they begin by quoting Andrew McKenzie, a geologist from BHP Billiton, who said, “We think there are 10,000 more years of minerals left for civilization.” He mentioned that some materials, more than others, are readily available and that there are enough known reserves for years to come. The graph illustrates that we have several hundred years of reserves for key elements such as potash, iron ore, copper, gold, and others.
Another good point made in the article is that several mining companies note that many largely untapped regions of the globe, including Greenland, the Canadian Arctic, Mongolia and the entire seafloor remain. Any new discoveries could yield even greater known reserves. Also, new techniques, such as dissolving minerals and sucking them up through a pipe or extracting ore with high-powered water jets, could increase recoverable reserves.
In conclusion, this article does a good job in summarizing that these discoveries and new technologies are more economically viable than going into space. In my opinion, mining in space is a novel and noble idea, but I think we need to be more realistic. I agree that the mining industry should focus more in investing in new technologies that will make it more environmentally friendly and efficient here on Earth.
Given the points made in the article, I think mining will remain grounded for a while.