Lunar mineral Extraction

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lensman01

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Once again the moon has become the focus for speculation about the viabilty of mineral extraction. A very quick google search came up with Ilmenite, a titanium/ iron ore. Currently Titanium sells at $20 a pound in ingot form, but Titanium is not a particularly rare mineral.

I have started this thread as a place to hammer out a viable business model, ie what could be mined profitably?

Then perhaps we could E-mail Elon Musk, because love him or hate him, it's likely this will come down to business.

Dave
 
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Boris_Badenov

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lensman01":1q2t530j said:
I have started this thread as a place to hammer out a viable business model, ie what could be mined profitably?


Dave
At close of business on Friday, Platinum was going for $1689.00 per US ounce. Even at that price it would not currently be profitable to retrieve Platinum from the Lunar Surface. Not even if all you had to do was to pick up solid Platinum Nuggets exposed on the surface.
Either launch costs have to drop into the $100.00 per pound range or an infrastructure needs to set up in LEO first.
 
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SteveCNC

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My belief about minerals and other such things coming from the moon is that the vast majority of stuff coming from the moon won't be heading to earth . Other places like LEO or BEO or even staying on the moon is where moon born stuff would go , it wouldn't be very cost effective to take to earth IMO except perhaps He3 . I think water is the most valuable thing on the moon and behind that would be materials for manufacturing such as nickle , iron , titanium , zinc , magnesium , molybdenum , aluminum , vanadium , chromium , phosphorous , manganese , carbon , silicon , these are the basics to creating the metal alloys we use today . Then behind that I believe would come rare earths but even that would be something used in space not brought back to earth unless of course the hazardous waste is so unbearable that it actually is cost effective to bring back to earth .

I've seen a lot of talk about the water on the moon supplying fuel for missions and air for breathing and all sorts of wonderful stuff it can be used for , but the one thing that bothers me about that is , how much water is actually there and able to be extracted ? And how long will it take to exhaust the supply if it is used for all things space ? Even if it would take 200 years to run out wouldn't that be an awfully short time ? Should we set up future generations for that loss of a source of water or would it be better to find a larger more plentiful supply somewhere else for supplying the majority of space efforts with water ?
 
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BenS1985

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Helium 3 is trading for $1.5 million USD per KG.

THAT would be the mineral you'd mine from the moon. It would be interesting to see if there were rare earths on the moon as well.
 
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oldAtlas_Eguy

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The whole key here is how much material (water, metals, etc) can be returned to a useful location like LEO over a 5 year period for the total weight of equipment and fuels shipped from Earth. Equipment on the Lunar surface costs ~$20,000 per kg, if the returned water to LEO is not greater than 4 to 1 of the equipment shipped to the moon then the price of Lunar water at LEO may not be commercially viable. A 4 to 1 ratio would make the water cost as much as shipping the same amount from Earth to LEO. But a 10 to 1 would make Lunar water at LEO be 2.5 times cheaper than Earth water. It not the actual price of Launch cost that is important but the amount of kg returned materiel to a kg of equipment ratio. This ratio is what determines if the business is fundamentally profitable.

If shipment is to Earth then actual Launch costs come into play. Then the costs per kg are the Launch cost rate of equipment sent to the Moon divided by the returned material weight. Even if only ½ kg per kg of equipment for mining of say platinum (which is not really minable on the Moon it’s just an example) would still make money if shipped to Earth using current Launch capability. At $59,000 per kg and the costs per kg of platinum shipped to Earth being $40,000 a profit of $19,000 per kg would be made, a 30% profit return on investment. ROI is the total revenue per total investment or in this case 130%.

Remember I stipulated a 5 year span between the investment and returned profit. This is the normal planning span of business investors. But space has an additional hardship it takes 3 to 5 years just to build the space hardware once a design and technology has been developed. So if you did an investment at the start then 6 to 10 years would go by before any revenue from the investment would start. This is just too long. That is why space businesses do things in such small increments, doing small scale development taking 2 years followed by 2 to 3 years to build that hardware then another year of development that increases capability while revenue starts coming in to keep the company solvent. Space X did the development, production, revenue, and then more development space business cycle. To build a Lunar infrastructure each step must be able to produce revenue without the follow on steps. This makes things extremely tough.
 
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Boris_Badenov

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BenS1985":v8jpyeat said:
Helium 3 is trading for $1.5 million USD per KG.

THAT would be the mineral you'd mine from the moon. It would be interesting to see if there were rare earths on the moon as well.
A year or so ago I figured the cost of mining Platinum on the Moon to be $6000 per gram. If He3 could be mined in a similar way & sold at the price you just quoted that's still only $1500 per gram.
Launch costs have to come down first.
 
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Gravity_Ray

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I don’t think any mineral on the Moon (or anyplace else in our solar system) will make its way back to Earth. Everything up there exists down here. No need to fight our gravity well. He3 is the only thing even remotely desirable on Earth and even that wont make its way down, because there is cheaper energy here already.

What the Moon brings to the table is the ability to mine things there with out the need to bring them from Earth. Once/if a Moon base is developed, the minerals on the Moon will be very important to expand our presence in space. Not having to bring all that stuff from Earth will make the expansion of humanity into space possible.

One thing that is a by-product of mankind’s expansion to LEO, Moon, and beyond is technological advancement. This will be in the form of A.I. and robotics. This technology will be necessary for humanity away from Earth. Those advances WILL make their way back down our gravity well and would allow profits to be reaped.
 
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3DBME

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Before the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in the early 60s there were many intriguing avenues of research regarding the creation of exotic materials by exposing various elements to be combined/fused to a nuclear explosion close by the point of detonation. It was found that if the various materials were spread across the surface of a steel sphere a surprising amount of material would be intact afterwards. That research was nipped in the bud by the treaty but I wouldn't be surprised to see nukes on the Moon. The blast radius for nuclear (and chemical) explosions in vacuum is much smaller than in atmosphere, and it would be easy to conceal. The Moon would be a perfect environment for such testing.
 
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Ruri

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Right now only three things are worth mining on the Moon Helium 3 because the Earth has almost none,O2 and water because they can be used for rocket propellant.

O2 would be more likely to be mined before water because it can be found everywhere and most of a chemical rocket's propellant mass is oxygen.

Eventually platinum group metals will likely be mined on the moon simply because their ores are going to be easier to find on the lunar surface then on Earth.

Most of Earth's PMGs are locked away out of reach deep with in the planet because of the rock cycle.
But since the Moon is mostly geologically dead one major source of PMGs iron nickle meteorites can be found on the lunar surface.
 
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Booban

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We like to think that the riches of space will compel earthlings to colonize space, but those riches are only valuable to a space community to begin with.
 
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