Despite appearances, the earth and its resources are finite. Alternative energy has not merely been about finding eco-friendly alternatives, but resource alternatives. After all, there will be a point when many resources dry up and we must begin looking elsewhere.
One place we’re looking is, remarkably, space. Jean-Jacques Dordain, the former director general of the European Space Agency, recently announced the agency’s entry into the space-mining race. Space-mining is about extracting important resources from near-earth asteroids and is no longer the domain of science fiction.
This year, for example, NASA’s mission “OSIRIS-Rex” aims to launch a probe to nearby asteroid Bennu. They’re hoping the probe will reach the asteroid by 2018 and return samples to Earth in 2023. One of the agency’s key goals is to obtain more data about how to mine asteroids.
Asteroids are ideal because they are leftovers from the solar system’s origins from 4.5-billion years ago. This means they are generally richer in valuable materials, more so than the Earth’s crust.
We so closely associate mining with digging down into the Earth, we often don’t consider mining in space to be anything but fantasy. Yet, far from fantasy, it could prove to be necessity. This is why it’s imperative the mining industry begin taking notice about this possible future. After all, if even NASA is focusing some parts of their efforts in this area, mining itself certainly should be.
Of course, many businesses are primarily trying to exist, let alone research the future. Many are more focused on investing in the immediate future, using methods like machinery finance, in an attempt to stay ahead. They can’t stay so far ahead they’re literally in the sky, however. Negotiating this balance might be the key component of mining going forward.
Yet, no business wants to be left behind, when the future is staring them in the face. This is particularly so given the reality of the situation: where resources are depleting, where alternatives aren’t yet feasible, where the future appears to be in the stars. Pouring too little into this might mean we are left behind, but pouring too much means we never go further.
The businesses that will succeed in the coming years will be those recognising the balance. There is no perfect solution but one thing mining can definitely not do is ignore the implications of space and all the untapped resources floating in the dark.