Developing Industrial Minerals, Nuclear Minerals, and Commodities of Potential Interest via off-World Exploration and Mining
As the availability of important mineral deposits on Earth declines, including nuclear minerals, or as they are consumed at increasing cost, price-competitive resources from off-world will be required sooner or later as technology and large-scale project management systems are developed to handle such projects. Both exploration and mining programs will be powered by electricity generated by solar energy and by nuclear energy in a variety of plants sizes located in deep space and on the Moon, Mars, and other bodies. Realistic economic studies comparing the price of resources available on Earth with off-world resources will be required to justify the large funds required to mine off-world resources by multinational corporations. With the primary objective of exploration in the solar system being the development of mineral and nuclear resources, sampling in remote regions in new environments will be challenging to Earth-bound planners both in terms of economic justification and technical feasibility. Exploration programs will need to be innovative and guided by sound geologic and geophysical principles and procedures, whether they be on the Moon, on Mars, or on asteroids located near Earth or within the asteroid belt beyond Mars or on the moons of Jupiter or Saturn. They will be guided first by remote sensing probes to assess the target quality, followed up by remote sampling robotics. After these programs become well tested, human settlements will follow that will oversee detailed exploration and ultimate mining programs. Exploration targets will be nuclear materials (uranium, thorium, and helium-3), metals (titanium, nickel, chromium, cobalt), rare-earth minerals (lanthanum, samarium, etc.), and other commodities (aluminum, etc.). Using plutonic models and analogies of mineralization known on Earth will provide guidance for the type of mineralization anticipated off-world, emphasizing those types associated with igneous and metamorphic rocks on other bodies in space. There will also likely be new types of mineralization of industrial interest encountered off world that are not known on Earth.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90090©2009 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, Denver, Colorado, June 7-10, 2009