In the late 1800s, the discovery of iron ore gave rise to the powerful steel industry. Following the oil crisis in 1973, the iron and steel industry was no longer the driving force. Since the oil crisis, Luxembourg has looked to diversity, to ensure that any other crisis won’t encumber the wealth of the nation, which holds the highest GDP per capita in the world. Come 2017, the second richest nation in the world is eyeing outer space. In fact, Luxembourg now a world leader in asteroid mining industry.
Six months ago, Luxembourg pledged $223 million to develop and effectuate the first asteroid mining expedition. In November, it passed a law allowing private companies in that country to keep any resources they obtain from space.
If you think about it, space has everything we hold of value – metals, minerals, energy and real estate, in infinite quantities. Every year, thousands of meteors and asteroids worth trillions of dollars of minerals and metals whizz past the Earth. Scientists believe mining of asteroids and minerals which contain valuable metals like gold, nickel, platinum and iron is extremely feasible. As a matter of fact, several international organizations are even looking into developing plans for going up to get these deep space resources.
Luxembourg Invests in Asteroid Mining
Luxembourg has more than 30 years of experience in space and geo-communication industries. In 1985, SES - now one of world’s leading satellite operators, was founded there. A year later, they built their headquarters in Château de Betzdorf, a former residence of the country’s Grand Duke.
More than 23 years later, the company operates over 50 satellites in the orbit that can reach 99 percent of the world’s population. Albeit, it’s not just SES alone, plenty of other companies now work in the space industry.
In February 2016, Luxembourg announced it would develop the bedrock needed for the future commercial use of space resources. The government has opened a fund of more than $200 million USD to invest in asteroid mining companies.
Planetary Resources, Redmond, Washington-based asteroid mining company has been granted more than $26 million from Luxembourg. The funding will go into their efforts to further their technological advancement within the country’s borders.
Luxembourg’s new law which goes into effect in early 2017 will allow private companies from the deep space industry to extract and keep materials. Moreover, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Resources also plan to space test their asteroid-mining technologies.
Albeit, the long-term viability of asteroid mining is a trillion dollar question. It is estimated that a 30m-wide asteroid could be loaded with up to $50 million worth of platinum. The challenges, however, are derisive, especially when you question the business viability. For example, how will companies refine minerals in low gravity, how expensive will be the whole ordeal be, will asteroid minerals provide a price advantage over planetary sources?