There were some suggestions that asteroids could one day be mined for precious metals. I have found an outdated study that says that some siderites contain as much as 0.001% of gold: http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1968/0603/report.pdf

Are there recent studies on precious metals in space rocks, i.e. platinum, rhodium, iridium, rhenium, osmium, ruthenium, palladium, germanium and gold, and is it genuinely a viable mining research subject?

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    $\begingroup$ A Mining Engineer's Perspective by Professor Leslie Gertsch. I highly recommended it as an unusual interdisciplinary talk. Kind of disappointing for the optimists. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 15:22

1 Answer 1


I have found an outdated study that says that some siderites contain as much as .001% of gold. Is it genuinely a viable mining research subject?

Not yet, and not for quite a long time.

Gold is precious because humans only mine about 2.5 million kilograms of the stuff per year. Compare this to the huge amount of infrastructure (and huge cost) needed to retrieve the few kilograms of stuff that has been brought back to Earth from space.

We haven't the foggiest idea how to mine minerals in space, let alone minerals that at best might have a concentration of ten parts per million (another way to look at your 0.001% figure). On the other hand, there are many ideas regarding taking advantage of untapped resources right here at home. For example, there are manganese nodules all over the sea floor. These nodules contain not just manganese , but also iron, nickel, and precious metals. Space mining cannot compete with those untapped local resources until they run out. (And then we'll find yet another untapped local resource.)

Mining stuff in space will be profitable only if there's a need for that stuff in space. If space mining becomes reality, the first stuff to be mined will be rather mundane volatiles such as water and methane rather than metals. Those volatiles are the low hanging fruit in space. How to extract and make use of those mundane volatiles is a good problem for our current generation of young adults. How to go beyond that is a problem for their grandchildren.


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