Asteroid Mining: a Serious Threat for Mining Companies on Earth

By Martijn Aslander

“The biggest threat nowadays, in almost any business, always comes from another field. The NY taxi drivers didn’t take Uber very seriously in the beginning, but this data driven, deep learning logistic startup, in fact, isn’t a taxi company at all. They’re trying to figure out logistics in its broadest sense. And now they’re really taking over the global taxi market. Go figure.

It reminds me of this great article that Theodore Levitt wrote years ago in the Harvard Business Review. Here’s a small excerpt from it: “The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads are in trouble today – not because the need was filled by others (cars, trucks, airplanes, even telephones), but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves. They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. The reason they defined their industry wrong was because they were railroad oriented instead of transportation-oriented; they were product-oriented instead of customer-oriented.”

I am afraid we will see the same happening in the word wide mining industry. Most mining companies probably see their core business as digging scarce natural resources out of the ground. Operations, which are increasingly becoming more costly, because of the complications of having to dig deeper and deeper underground, and the costs of labour on the rise.  Now, I’ve been talking about asteroid mining now for several years, and most of the audiences that I present to regard me as someone coming from another planet (pun intended). How on earth can asteroid mining be real, or even profitable?

A lot of people tend to forget about space. The great space age is a thing of the past and even the space shuttle is not flying anymore. I think they are very wrong. I think we are on the verge of the biggest challenge so far: actually going into space, build an infrastructure, explore the rest of our universe, and even live there and do business in space.

Elon Musk, Sir Richard Branson and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos are all starting space companies, and I personally know students that funded their own little satellites, called cubesats. The price to get into space is decreasing in an exponential pace. And one of the most interesting things that are happening now in the field of space, is asteroid mining.

Natural resources like minerals and metals are not abundant on our earth. But in space, there is plenty. More than plenty. In our solar system alone, we have been able to identify more than 150 million asteroids bigger than 100 meter. Those asteroids contain large amounts of minerals and metals, some of which don’t even exist on earth. To give you an example: the Ryugu asteroid contains more than 95 trillion dollar of metal! Though we hve to bear in mind, that that is valued based on today’s pricing. We basically have no idea what value of metal or mineral will be when we can easily grab them from space. Commons sense dictates that prizes will fall dramatically…

In the coming 20 years, research and innovation will help us get to space much cheaper and safer. Along with that, spectrometers will have developed to be eased in cubsats -those tiny satellites- which can help us identify what minerals and metals can be found in the asteroid they land on. We already landed on an asteroid, Rosetta. The next step is to figure out how to mine those valuable orbiting rocks.

In June, the UN will host a meeting of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Here, they will discuss stuff like ownership. I wonder how many mining industries will be present.”

 

Martijn Aslander is an expert in value creation, marketing 2.0, complementary economics, networking and life-hacking, with disruptive views on social and information capital. He is an internationally sought-after public speaker with a reputation for captivating, confusing, entertaining, informing and inspiring his audiences.

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