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  •  Rare Earth processing and Iridium are the only (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, Gooserock, Aunt Pat, Eric K

    two operations I could ever being see being made profitable in space mining. For example if you processed rare Earths inside Venuses orbit you could let the radioactive waste fall into the sun, not contaminate the Earth, and use solar power to do it. Iridium is rare on Earth but not the solar system.

    Everything else would be cheaper to either filter sea water to get it, recycle landfills, or mine the ocean floor in "shallow" water for example the sunken continental shelf I think is dubbed "Zealandia" off the coast of New Zealand.

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

    by dopper0189 on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:26:43 PM PDT

    •  If you are looking for material to import (6+ / 0-)

      to earth, you are probably right.  But there will be a market for resources off-planet too.  

    •  How would they "fall" into the Sun? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Khun David

      It takes more delta-v to reach the Sun from Earth than to leave the solar system entirely.  It'd make more sense just to crash the material into Venus.  No ethical dilemma about polluting Hell.

      As for water, I think you missed the part about needing water out in space for fuel and how expensive it is to send it up from Earth compared to slowboating it from NEOs to the Moon or Earth orbit.

      "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

      by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 09:10:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was thinking of mining asteroids in between (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        Earth and Venus. But your right Venus would be a better dump than the Sun. It would take much longer for them to "fall" into the sun (orbital decay) than it would to crash into Venus.

        I 100% agree that mining space based water for Lunar and Martian bases makes economic sense. But mining for metals is where I think the economics break down. Processing ores is a very energy intensive process, unless you find a very rich vein.

        Grapping a bunch of frozen comet goo isn't "mining" per se, it's more like melting a bunch of dirty snow and filtering it. So yes I do think this could make sense.

        -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

        by dopper0189 on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 09:26:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Poynting–Robertson effect (0+ / 0-)

          The Poynting–Robertson effect causes dust-sized particles in orbit around the Sun to decelerate and spiral inward. The smaller the particle the faster the effect. Any waste not trapped by a planetary gravitational field will spiral into the sun as long as the particles are small enough.

        •  Energy isn't really a problem (0+ / 0-)

          in the inner solar system (outside of planetary bodies with long nights like the Moon - asteroids tend to have rotational periods of only a few hours), so I wouldn't worry about that being a limiting factor in mining NEAs for metal.  Solar power is still practical even in the Main Belt, although a lot stingier, but by the time we're out there I doubt it would be a problem.

          "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

          by Troubadour on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 10:18:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Ummm, isn't space full of energy? (0+ / 0-)

          Isn't the solar energy in space PART of the attraction of metal processing?

    •  No rare earth mining... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric K

      or platinum group elements like iridium, gold,or platinum will be mined any time soon. They don't occur in concentrated minerals like they do on Earth. They occur disseminated at part per million concentrations or lower. Water and iron-nickel metal are another matter as they can occur at levels of several percent and can be relatively easily extracted because of their concentrations and physical properties (e.g., melting and boiling points, density). Platinum group elements are somewhat more concentrated in the metal, but but still too low to extract easily. Also, just about any kind of mass could be valuable for some orbital operations.

      If Chris Lewicki has really been studying asteroids all his life he should know this. I'm not sure what his reason is for talking about platinum, but it would take very advanced operations to extract trace elements like this.

      •  Time Scale (0+ / 0-)

        Rare and precious metals are being used as examples because they will tend to maintain their relative values over mission times measured in maybe decades.

        Once on station a processor needs only to concentrate the payload into economically viable payloads and that can take as long as you like as long as the relative value is somewhat predictable.

        •  Concentrate? How? (0+ / 0-)

          I'm not aware of any method to concentrate platinum or rare earths from rock unless it is already concentrated in mineral grains. There are no platinum-rich or rare earth-rich mineral grains in that are significant components in meteorites. Maybe they can find platinum pie or rare earth unicorns.

          If asteroid mining needs delivery of products to Earth for profit, then it loses much of it's cost advantage, that is being outside the gravity well. Delivering water or metal, or just mass to near-Earth space might make economic sense. Mining platinum sounds like mining pie.

          •  I dont have to work it all (0+ / 0-)

            out now. Plasma Distillation, staged reduction of tailings, centrifuging nano partials  it doesn't matter.

            What ever steps are involved the point is that it can take months or years to develop the payloads as long as the eventual resource stream will cover the cost plus profit.

            •  distillation? really? (0+ / 0-)

              boil away 99.9999% of an asteroid to get at the platinum pie?

              I agree there is no reasonable method worked out now to make platinum mining work. That's why mining water, or organics,  or metal, or mass makes sense, but platinum doesn't. Just saying that we can work this out in the future is not a plan, it's platinum pie. Some day platinum may be extracted from asteroids, but it will be a by-product of other large-scale extractive operations. Going to asteroids for their platinum sounds like a big waste of $$$.

              My comment was not to disparage the idea of asteroid mining. I like that and I hope it's successful. What I don't understand is the suggestion that asteroid miners can get lots of platinum to make a profit.

      •  Not true (0+ / 0-)

        There are meteorites with 100 ppm and a few with 200 ppm PGM. An excellent PGM ore on earth might contain 5 to 10 ppm PGMs

        •  but these are a small subset of iron meteorites (0+ / 0-)

          which were differentiated in a molten asteroid core by fractional crystallization (that is, the final residues to crystallize in the core have very high PGMs). They only represent a small portion of the asteroid core. The average core, and thus any average iron asteroid would have a PGM content only 8 to 10 times a typical chondrite, so maybe 10-20 ppm total PGMs.

          But refining this is is a huge challenge compared to PGM mining on Earth because on Earth these metals are concentrated into specific minerals. You can first concentrate the minerals from the rocks and then purify PGMs from the mineral concentrate. A lot of platinum is mined from placers; that is PGM grains are found in sediments and are concentrated by virtue of their high density. Also a lot of platinum production is a by-product of copper and nickel mining, so as the latter are purified, platinum is a valuable by-product. On an iron asteroid there are no PGM-rich minerals to pre-concentrate. What you have is a hunk of Ni-Fe that has traces of PGMs in it.

          As I said in another comment in this thread, I like the idea of asteroid mining. I'm just not impressed by comments about how you can get rich mining platinum there. I'm glad Darksyde talked about the value of mining water and other major phases. It's the first sensible discussion I've seen on the mining issue.

          •  got that backwards (0+ / 0-)

            I looked it up and platinum (also Ir, Ru, Os) concentrate in the first solids to crystallize, not the last. But the point remains that only a small portion of an iron asteroid will have really high Pt concentrations.

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