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A Wealth of Resources from Space and Deep-Sea in Mining
By Marcelle Villegas
Technology may take us far in achieving milestones in mining exploration in our planet, however, the availability of resources on Earth has its limit.
Sustainability in this industry is often in question by most companies and government agencies.
With that, the possibility of acquiring resources under the sea and even in outer space became the goal and endeavour of some private companies.
Douglas Kirwin, Consulting Geologist, mentioned some of these projects during his recent lecture at the PMEA Membership Meeting. One of which is underwater mining which is not a new concept but improves in time.
In 1970, Underwater Mining Conference was launched.
This year, the conference will take place on 10-14 September 2018 in Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway with the theme “Deep-Sea Mining: Challenges of Going Further and Deeper Advances in Marine Research and Subsea Technology Beyond Oil and Gas”. The conference is in partnership with many experts like K.G.
Jensen Center for Deep Sea Research at the University of Bergen (UiB) who has an extensive background in deep ocean research since “The Northern Ocean Expedition” in 1876-1878.
Nautilus Minerals Inc. in Canada is the first company to commercially explore the seafloor for massive sulphide systems, a potential source of high grade copper, gold, zinc and silver.
The company is developing a production system using existing technologies that are used in offshore oil and gas industry to collect these high grade Seafloor Massive Sulphide (SMS) systems on a commercial scale.
According to the experts, deep sea minerals are relatively easy to find compared with explorations on land. They also expect very high conversion rate from discovery to mine.
Currently, the Solwara 1 of Nautilus’ copper-gold project is being developed in territorial waters of Papua New Guinea.
Four years ago, asteroid mining was featured by Mining.com  in relation to the infographic released by an American company, Planetary Resources, Inc. (formerly Arkyd Astronautics).
Planetary Resources launched two test satellites to orbit Earth which are Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R) which started orbiting Earth on 17 April 2015 and was deployed from the International Space Station (via the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer) on 16 July 2015.
The second satellite of the company is Arkyd 6 which was successfully placed into orbit on 11 January 2018
Asteroid mining has been coined as a possible trillion-dollar industry, because according to Planetary Resources there are 16,000 near-earth asteroids that are rich in resources, there are 2 trillion tonnes of water available for life support and fuel in space, and there is a 95% reduction in space exploration cost using asteroid resources.
Furthermore, asteroid mining can provide a near-infinite supply of Platinum Group Metals and water.
More asteroids are discovered near our planet every day where more than 8,800 are discovered to date and more than 1,500 of them are easier to reach than the Moon.
There are also asteroids that are rich in water.
Water is a compound that is very useful not only on Earth but also for space exploration.
For example, water is useful for rocket fuel, supply of breathable air and drinkable water.
Currently it costs around $20,000 to send a liter of water from Earth to Deep Space, so utilizing the water resource from an asteroid solves this problem.
Bonus Trivia: Where exactly is outer space? Most people think that the area outside of the Earth’s atmosphere is outer space, but since our atmosphere has different layers, where does outer space begin? On a technical sense, outer space is the area beyond the Kármán line, an imaginary line 100 km (or 62 miles) above the Earth’s sea level.
This line defines the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.