Space race: Luxembourg aims to be leader in asteroid mining
The government of Luxembourg, a small European country bordered by Belgium, France and Germany, announced ea...
Space mining is no longer science fiction.
The government of Luxembourg, a small European country bordered by Belgium, France and Germany, announced earlier this week it will financially back commercial asteroid mining in an effort "to position Luxembourg as a European hub in the exploration and use of space resources."
“Things are moving in the United States and it was high time there was an initiative in Europe, and I am glad the first initiative is coming from Luxembourg,” said newly appoint advisor for the project, Jean-Jacques Dordain. “It will give no excuse for European investors to go to California.”
Luxembourg has a long-standing reputation in the space industry and has played a major role in the development of satellite communications, including setting up one of the world’s largest satellite services company, SES.
The space mining industry is already attracting $2 billion a year in private investment, according to Deep Space Industries (DSI), a California-based asteroid mining firm that has praised the Luxembourg government for embracing the future. Left over from the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago, asteroids are estimated to contain base metals like iron ore, nickel and cobalt, as well as amounts of precious metals.
It’s believed the government is willing to fund as much as 45 percent of research and development projects in the area.
Etienne Schneider, the country’s vice-Prime Minister and Minister for the Economy said Luxembourg’s aim was “to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources on lifeless rocks hurling through space, without damaging natural habitats.”
While extracting natural resources of asteroids and other space objects has long been a dream for investors and others, there are a few critical issues. For one, there is no collected proof-of-concept asteroid sample. There are also legal issues because asteroids are governed by the Outer Space Treaty, which states space and space objects don’t belong to any individual nation.
• Related: [INFOGRAPHIC] Moon mining: How it could work
"Anybody who wants to go to an asteroid now and extract a resource is facing a large legal open question," said Joanne Gabrynowicz, a director at the International Institute of Space Law.
A legal and regulatory framework on the future ownership of minerals extracted from objects in space is currently being developed by the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy.
While the jury is still out about asteroid mining, the possibility could become a reality sooner than we think (hope).
Lynas revenue jumps 21% as rare earth prices jump
Australian miner Lynas Rare Earths posted a 20.6% rise in revenue in the March quarter as selling prices for the key metals it mines hit record highs amid strong demand, particularly for neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr).
NdPr is used in magnets for electric vehicles and windfarms, in consumer goods like smartphones, and in military equipment such as jet engines and missile guidance systems.
The company said it plans to maintain production at 75% however, as it seeks to continue to meet covid-19 safety protocols and grapples with shipping difficulties. Shares in Lynas fell 6.1% after the results.
“They have faced a few logistics issues, and it would be good to know when they are going to start lifting their utilisation rates a bit,” said portfolio manager Andy Forster of Argo Investments in Sydney.
“Pricing has been pretty strong although it may have peeled back a bit recently. I still think the medium, long-term outlook is pretty good for their suite of products.”
Lynas post ed revenue of A$110mn ($85.37mn) for the three months to the end of March, up from A$91.2mn a year earlier as prices soared.
It said its full product range garnered average selling prices of A$35.5/kg during the March quarter, up from $23.7 in the first half of the financial year. “While the persistence of the covid crisis, especially in Europe, calls for careful forecasts for our business ahead, we see the rare earth market recovering very quickly,” said Lynas, the world’s largest rare earths producer outside China.
Freight demand has spiked during the pandemic, while the blockage of the Suez Canal in March delayed a shipment to April.
Lynas’ output of 4,463 tonnes of rare earth oxide (REO) during the quarter was marginally lower than 4,465 tonnes from a year earlier.