Is Mining Asteroids The Better Option
November 6, 2012

Asteroid Mining Might Be A Better Option Than Mining The Oceans For Platinum

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Planetary Resources announced earlier this year it plans to begin looking beyond Earth for precious metals, and mining asteroids for platinum.

Since the announcement of the company's mission, many skeptics have come out to say it is a ridiculous feat, and some have even gone as far as to say why leave Earth, when we have an ocean full of the metal.

Chris Lewicki, Planetary Resources President and Chief Asteroid Miner, addressed this issue, saying exactly why it is more feasible to mine asteroids, than ocean water.

In Lewicki's blog post, he wrote that there is about 0.000000000234 grams of platinum per liter of ocean water. Granted, there is a 1,300,000,000,000,000,000,000 liters of water in the ocean, so in a sense there is plenty of platinum in that water. However, just because there is plenty, doesn't make it feasible.

The asteroid miner said there was about 300,000 tons of platinum in seawater, which could fetch around $16 trillion.

"Sounds attractive, right? But now we need to process all the water in all the oceans, and it´s a big task," Lewicki wrote.

In his example, he used a pump about the size of Niagra Falls, which has a flow rate of about 57,000,000 liters per second. He said it would take seven million years to work through all the water on Earth, assuming there was a processing plant that big.

A "more reasonable" example he said would be to create a processing plant that could pump 1 millionth of the ocean, or 13,000,000,000,000,000 liters, in seven years. In this scenario, Lewicki said this would provide about $16 million in platinum.

Planetary Resources is looking to mine asteroids that have a concentration of precious metals like platinum a billion times higher than the ocean, yielding more profits.

"While asteroid mining is a big task, it´s much more tractable than processing enormous amounts of seawater," Lewicki wrote.

He will be writing a follow-up blog about how the water on carbonaceous asteroids helps to pave the way for the space economy.