Mining asteroids for precious metals

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

I just want to say, the fact we can even consider mining asteroids at all is pretty remarkable.

According to a new study from Harvard University, hunting down asteroids in space for precious metals may not be worth the effort. Apparently, a measly 1% of asteroids contain enough precious metals – such as platinum, iridium, and palladium – that are actually worth mining.

Even though there’s tons of asteroids in space, only large ones close to Earth are worth the trip, and that brings the number of valuable rocks to approximately 100.

This might sound like bad news for space mining companies like Planetary Resources, but its co-founder Eric Anderson says, “I think the study is probably off by a factor of 100, conservatively, and I think it’s off by a factor of 1,000 optimistically.”

While not every single one of these space rocks contain deposits of precious metals, those that do could be worth anywhere between $800 million to $8.8 billion dollars.

“I want to stress that my paper does not mean that there is no commercial future for asteroid mining,” says Harvard researcher Dr. Martin Elvis. “It does mean that gold mines are rare, which shouldn’t be too surprising.”

Images courtesy of NASA.