This article talks about the possibility of mining Uranium on the moon. Since the Moon lacks the geological forces that have created veins of concentrated minerals on Earth, would extraterrestrial mining be more difficult or impractical? How does Moon, Martian, or asteroid mining overcome the lack of mineral veins otherwise formed by Earth's geology?

It seems like extraterrestrial mining would be at least as difficult as trying to refine desert sand, which isn't a thing.

A short video on how gold veins form

Wayfaring Stranger added an interesting link on ore genesis.

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    $\begingroup$ My wild guess would be that volcanism might somehow have caused local concentrations, it would be interesting to learn if there is any such known process. Iron and titanium seem to be more common in the maria. I don't think uranium mining is correlated with volcanism on Earth. But I think that newspaper article sensationalized the for the public pretty mundane news that uranium abundances on the Moon had been determined for the first time. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Nov 4, 2015 at 10:48
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    $\begingroup$ New Moon Map Shows Uranium in Short Supply: space.com/8644-moon-map-shows-uranium-short-supply.html Don't know how long moon had enough water for hydrothermal activity, which is how U is usually concentrated: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ore_genesis#Uranium No need for plate tectonics there, just water, heat, time, and the right kind of rocks. $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2015 at 0:47
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    $\begingroup$ Come to think of it, the bright spots on Ceres are likely hydrothermal Magnesium sulfate deposits: space.com/… If a minor planet like Ceres can produce veins this mineral, there's no reason to think the Moon could not have produced hydrothermal veins of other minerals. $\endgroup$ Dec 26, 2015 at 7:37
  • $\begingroup$ @WayfaringStranger Ceres probably formed outside the frostline and may have once been covered with ice similar to the outer moons perhaps with liquid water underneath, and the top layer of ice slowly sublimated as the sun grow more luminous. I don't think comparisons between the Moon and Ceres should be made. The Moon likely had some history of volcanism though. $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    May 24, 2016 at 10:33
  • $\begingroup$ Since the premise of this question is mining it is leaning in the off topic direction, but since it really is just a planetary science question I'll leave it open. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    May 24, 2016 at 14:32

3 Answers 3


I vaguely remember my dad talking about this.

Uranium and other heavy elements are dense. When the celestial body was molten (early in it's life) all the heavy elements sank to the core of the body. Now, with tectonics, the heavy elements are brought back up to the surface. This is why we can mine Uranium on Earth near the surface: the Uranium was brought back up due to convention current on Earth. In conclusion, it's not worth it at all to mine on a non-tectonically active planet/moon

If anyone can extend this, please do.

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    $\begingroup$ It's my understanding that heavy elements found in the upper layers of the Earth came from meteors and asteroids during the Late Heavy Bombardment era, which was after Theia was absorbed, and after the Earth's crust began to solidify. I found an article about gold being deposited that way: popsci.com/science/article/2011-09/… $\endgroup$ Jan 20, 2016 at 16:16
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    $\begingroup$ Uranium is chemically very reactive. Therefore it is bound to minerals which participate in the convection of Earth's mantle. $\endgroup$
    – Gerald
    Jan 20, 2016 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ PS .. as far as asteroid mining goes, there are a couple of serious companies in existence who intend to mine asteroids. See this website of one of them: planetaryresources.com/#home-intro . $\endgroup$ Mar 25, 2016 at 4:20

Quakes and other large scale geological activity ( and indeed running water ! ) cause no end of trouble for mining operations. Much better to be able to sit on a nice quiet rock in space without all that craziness going on.

We have, at this time, no real basis for saying one way or another, that there are not mineral concentrations. If all I let you do was dig a few meter deep boreholes in the surface of the Earth at random locations, what are the odds you would know anything about mineral concentrations for mining ?


See this Physics Stack Exchange Question/ Answer: https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/141839/why-heavy-elements-dont-sink-to-the-core . You don't need volcanics nor meteorites to keep many heavy elements in the crust (and mineable). Gold is one of the elements that bonds to iron, however, and sinks, which is why it is rare and valuable.


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