Big news for the space mining industry
Have you heard of the space mining industry? You most likely haven’t. And while it is in existence, it’s been noted by Forbes as being more of a concept than an actual industry. However, big news has recently hit the “industry.” And this news has everyone talking!
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This past weekend, a large asteroid passed by Earth and is believed to be worth quite a fortune—even more than the entire economy of Japan. Specifically, the platinum core of the asteroid could be worth over 5 trillion dollars.
Known as “Asteroid 2011 UW158,” the asteroid was just 1.5 million miles from our planet, which means that it was about six times further out than the moon, but still closer to Earth than planets Mars and Venus.
Again, according to Forbes, Planetary Resources could potentially be in a position to exploit various opportunities of the asteroid. You may recall that Planetary Resources deployed its first spacecraft from the International Space Station just this week. This spacecraft will test some of the basic technologies that may later be used in a space telescope to help spot potential asteroid mining targets.
Interestingly enough, Planetary Resources has some famous backers including Peter Diamandis of X Prize fame, Google founder Larry Page and Sara Seager of MIT.
When referring to the asteroid, it’s been described as a “prime example of an asteroid Planetary Resources will aim to mine in the future.”
Furthermore, NASA seems to be interested in what sort of resources near-Earth asteroids may hold for future missions. The company is even currently planning a so-called “asteroid redirect mission” in which a robotic craft will grab an asteroid or part of one before moving it into orbit around the moon. Then, the asteroid can be visited in person by astronauts for research purposes.
However, all of these plans are for the future. While NASA is several years away from being able to send equipment to a nearby asteroid, at the moment, it seems that mining for water could be the appropriate route to take. Mining for water could be a valuable resource that is needed for further space exploration and could even assist with building out the infrastructure that is needed to get space mining up and running.
Rio Tinto and Alcoa begin construction with ELYSIS tech
Eliminating all direct greenhouse gases from aluminium smelting has taken a major step forward with the start of construction on the first commercial-scale prototype cells of ELYSIS’ inert anode technology, at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.
ELYSIS has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of aluminium production
ELYSIS is a joint venture company led by Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is developing a new breakthrough technology, known as inert anode, that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the traditional smelting process and instead produces oxygen.
The technology has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint.
The inert anode prototype cells will operate on a commercial scale typical for large modern aluminium smelters, using an electrical current of 450 kiloamperes (kA).
The Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry joined representatives from ELYSIS, Rio Tinto and Alcoa to mark the start of construction and announce a further CAD $20mn financial contribution from the Government of Canada to support the project.
The federal government's financial support will enable the creation of a unique commercial size inert anode technology showroom for future customers and will help develop the supply chain by involving local and regional equipment manufacturers and suppliers in the project.
ELYSIS is working to complete the technology demonstration by 2024 followed by the commercialization activities.
ELYSIS technology at a glance:
- The ELYSIS technology addresses the global trend towards producing low carbon footprint products, from mobile phones to cars, planes and building materials.
- The new process will reduce operating costs ofaluminiumsmelters while increasing production capacity. It could be used in both new and existing aluminium smelters.
- In Canada alone, the ELYSIS technology has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 7 million tons, the equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.
- ELYSIS will also sell next-generation anode and cathode materials, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components.
Alcoa and Rio Tinto will continue to support the ELYSIS development program alongside the Governments of Canada and Quebec.
ELYSIS is working closely with Alcoa's Technical Center, where the zero-carbon smelting technology was invented, and the Rio Tinto technology design team in France.
Alcoa's Technical Center supports ELYSIS in the manufacture of proprietary materials for the new anodes and cathodes that are essential to the ELYSIS process. The Rio Tinto technology team in France is creating commercial scale designs for the ELYSIS technology.
Vincent Christ, CEO, ELYSIS commented: “This is a great day for ELYSIS. It means that we are becoming the first technology company in the world to build commercial-size inert anode cells. While we refine the technology in our R&D Centre, we start the construction of our prototype cells. This shows our confidence in our process and in the know-how of our team. The combination of ELYSIS' zero CO2 technology and Quebec's renewable energy will be great competitive advantage for the future. I would like to thank the government for its support and all the partners for their commitment.”
Samir Cairae, Rio Tinto Aluminium managing director Atlantic Operations and ELYSIS board member added: “Today marks a real step towards the future of the aluminium industry, by progressing this breakthrough technology to cut carbon emissions. Rio Tinto is committed to supporting its ongoing development here in Quebec where we already use clean hydropower to deliver some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium. Combining this technology with renewable hydropower holds the promise of zero carbon aluminium smelting.”