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					Sean Calhoun
SDI 3-Week
Nickel /Vinson


                                         AT: Rare Earth Mining
1. Space mining makes no sense financially and is much too expensive

Greg Fish, author of Astroeconomics: Making Money from the Vacuum of Space. “Discovery Space: Mining Asteroids and Getting Rich (Or
Not).” Atomic Rockets, June 29, 2009. Accessed July 11, 2011.                 <http://atomicrockets.posterous.com/space-disco-discovery-space-mining-
asteroids>

Between Mars and Jupiter lies the asteroid belt. Circling around the sun, this is the resting place of countless giant clumps of debris from the chaotic collisions and
gravitational tides of our early solar system. However, these asteroids are not totally alien to us. They’re made from the same components as Earth, albeit in different
proportions and with a few exotic additives like rare amino acids and iridium. And because they’re made from the same materials as our planet, it means that they’re
loaded with the kinds of natural resources we’ve been exploiting for thousands of years now, and will be exploiting for thousands of years in the future. A single
asteroid’s cache of natural resources can be worth literally trillions of dollars. Yes, that’s trillions with a T. But while our musings about exploiting the vast resources
                                                                                                                                 asteroid mining needs
of asteroids are all well and good, we need to keep in mind that for mining corporations to devote the time and effort to the idea,
to be a profitable line of business which brings in a tidy sum at the end of the fiscal year and looks good on a balance sheet.
Considering that major mining conglomerates have annual revenues between $30 and $50 billion, that number has to be very big. To make
up even 5% of their operation, asteroid mining would have to haul in around $2 billion per year.
Considering the time it would take to get to the asteroid belt, mine the ore, come back, unload and prepare to travel back, realistically, we'd only
have one delivery per year. So what exactly could we mine on asteroids? Pretty much anything really, but the vast majority of the
minerals we'll find could be extracted on Earth in existing mines. One of the most abundant compounds is going to be
some form of silicon, a material out of which the inner solar system is built and it's lying under our feet in vast amounts. We'd have to
focus on precious metals which are much more abundant in space than on Earth due to the way asteroids form. However, when we say much more abundant, we're
really talking about going from parts per billion to parts per million at best. When we run the numbers, we come up with only hundreds of grams per metric ton or a
kilogram or two with an estimated worth roughly $14,500 to $30,000. So when we try to extrapolate how approximately much material we'd have to mine to arrive at
our target revenue of $2 billion, we get an impressive 125,000 metric tons. (Or almost 138,000 short tons.)


2. New rare-earth finds make space mining unnecessary

No Author Given. “Large Deposits of Rare Earth Minerals Found in Pacific Ocean Floor”. Mining Info, July 5,                                    2011. Accessed July
11, 2011. <http://www.mining-info.com/featured/large-deposits-of-rare-earth-minerals-found-in-pacific-ocean-floor/>


High tech gadgets like the iPad and flat screen TVs are manufactured using rare-earth elements, which until
recently, were put in a strangle hold by China’s near monopolist supply. However, last weekend scientists found large deposits of
rare-earth minerals on the ocean floor near Hawaii and Tahiti. Could this be the treasure trove of key elements the
world has been hoping for? The minerals included in this particular find, including as gadolinium, lutetium, terbium and
dysprosium could multiply the known supply on land by 1,000 times. Currently, China holds more than 90 percent
market share of global rare earth mineral supply and has recently tightened exports. To further increase the need of an alternative source, demand
for rare earths has leapt from 30,000 tons in the 1908s to about 120,000 tons in 2010, higher than the current annual production of about 112,000
tons. Rare earths are used to make strong magnets, which are a critical component to motors, laptops, electric cars, TVs, and iPods. But a low
supply has fueled fears that recent price increases will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices for electronics, or a decrease in
                                                         rare earth mines are being developed in the US,
production capacity of consumer electronics. Beyond China, new
Canada and Australia, but none providing as significant a supply as China does. However, the newly discovered deposits in the Pacific
Ocean could be a game changer. “The deposits have a heavy concentration of rare earths. Just one square km
of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption,” Yasuhiro Kato, an
associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo, said in the report, according to The Guardian. The nine-member team, which
included University of Tokyo Associate Prof. Yasuhiro Kato, said Sunday it located the deposits in ocean-floor mud at depths of 3,500 meters to
6,000 meters in central and southeastern areas of the Pacific Ocean. The deposits are located in international waters, according to reports. Mining
will take place “east and west of Hawaii, as well as east of Tahiti in French Polynesia,” Reuters reports. “If the technology to exploit them
efficiently is developed, it would be possible for the deposits to become an alternative to land-based rare earth elements,” Kato said. “Sea mud
can be brought up to ships and we can extract rare earths right there using simple acid leaching,” Kato said. “Using diluted acid, the process is
fast, and within a few hours we can extract 80-90% of rare earths from the mud.” The team of scientists believes that the deposits are distributed
                                                                                             ocean
over an area of 8.8 million sq. km in the central Pacific and 2.4 million sq. km. in the southeastern Pacific. Overall, they estimate, the
floor might hold more than the 110 million tonnes of rare earths estimated to be buried on land.
Sean Calhoun
SDI 3-Week
Nickel /Vinson

3. Even if space mining was feasible and/or necessary, ambiguous legal status drives would-be
miners away

Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer. “Moon Mining Idea Digs Up Lunar Legal Issues.” SPACE.com, January 13, 20 11. Accessed July 11,
2011. <http://www.space.com/10621-moon-mining-legal-issues.html>


While the Outer Space Treaty likely allows mining, it does not set up a system granting explicit title
to the extracted resources, according to Nelson. That ambiguity may not cause problems during mining operations, but it
could be an issue when companies try to sell the resources. "If you're pouring billions of dollars into extracting something of value, you
don't want the risk that a bunch of people are going to sue you, or boycott you, or sanction you if you
take it to market," Nelson said. White thinks that companies probably can claim ownership, under the Outer Space Treaty, of the ice they mine
from a lunar crater. But he agrees that there is a bit of fuzziness — and fuzziness is daunting to big-dollar operations. "If you really are talking
about a multibillion-dollar endeavor, if I were the lawyer for that company, I would say, 'Don't make that investment until we have legislation in
place,'" White said. Comprehensive new legislation should aim to take the ambiguity out, White added. "Ideally, you'd really need to do property
rights, mining law and salvage law all in one package, because some of the elements are common to all three," he said. Some space
entrepreneurs agree that resources on the moon and other celestial bodies won't be used to their
full extent unless companies have explicit property rights and title. "You have to really own the ground upon which
you've placed these really valuable facilities," Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, told SPACE.com. Bigelow Aerospace is drawing
up plans for a quick-deploy lunar base, using the company's expandable space habitats. "You have to instill the ingredients of profit and benefit
into the equation."




4. Technology issues make mining nearly impossible

Charles L. Gerlach, founder and CEO of Gerlach Space Systems. “Profitably Exploiting Near-Earth Object Resources”. International Space
Development Conference, May 22, 2005. Accessed July 12, 2011. <http://abundantplanet.org/files/Space-Ast-Profitably-Exploiting-NEO-
Gerlach-2005.pdf>


Technology issues present many of the greatest challenges to successfully and economically executing an
asteroid mining mission. The prohibitively high costs of sending astronauts and potentially long
communications delays require that all operations be highly automated. Automated machinery must work
perfectly; even minor failures can cause mission failure. However, terrestrial mining experience with
automation has generally been poor, and operations will be complex and hard on equipment.



5. Getting to and landing on the asteroid itself is much too difficult

Andrew Moseman, science writer and online editor of Popular Mechanics. “Danger, President Obama! Visiting an Asteroid Is Exciting, but
Difficult”. Discover Magazine, April 22, 2010. Accessed July 12, 2011. < http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2010/04/22/danger-
president-obama-visiting-an-asteroid-is-exciting-but-difficult/>


                                                                                main candidates are around 5 million
NASA doesn’t know which of the nearby asteroids it might pick for a visit, but the
miles from Earth. The moon, by contrast, is a little less than a quarter-million miles away. The asteroids are about a
quarter-mile across; the moon is more than 2,000 miles in diameter. And a trip to an asteroid could take 200 days, as
opposed to the Apollo 11 lunar round-trip, which required little more than a week. That means NASA may have to devise new radiation shields
                                                 you get there, it’s no picnic either. You can’t actually
and life-support systems for the asteroid-bound astronauts. Once
land on an asteroid because it has so little gravity. Astronauts would have to somehow tether themselves to the rock to
keep from floating away.

				
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posted:10/10/2011
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