The Asia Miner

JUL-SEP 2017

The ASIA Miner - Reporting Important Issues to Mining Companies in the Asia Pacific Region

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Volume 14 • Issue 3 | 2017 | ASIA Miner | 13 Planetary Resources president and CEO Chris Lewicki addresses a con- ference. "Comparing them with the Moon and Mars is like chalk and cheese because the asteroids don't have any gravity. It is difficult to land on a planet or moon – you have one chance to get it right and unlike when landing at an airport, there is no chance to go around. Once there, you have the fuel problem in that there are no gas sta- tions - you must take all the fuel you need for the return trip. "As an engineer I am drawn to the challenges. People may think that because there is no gravity it creates a big problem, but it represents an opportunity because millions of tonnes of material can be moved around by a fingertip. "There are insights we have in the science relating to geology in space that tell us that what you see on the outside of an asteroid is what you get on the inside. There are none of the gravitational forces that make much of the Earth's geology so complex. In many cases we can know more about an asteroid from a telescope than you can know about something on Earth by taking one diamond drill core from it." He says that if we were to have explained to our grandparents that in the early part of the new millennium we could get oil from the bot- tom of the North Atlantic or copper from the bed of the Pacific, they would have thought we were crazy. "There are some who think that about our plans, but history and the cycle of technology allows us to predict these things better than we have ever been able to before." Towards 2020 Planetary Resources wants to help foster a space economy by dra- matically lowering the cost of going to space through provision of necessary resources like water and fuel. By combining the low-cost computers and sensors from smartphones with cutting-edge satel- lite and avionics, the company believes it can help usher in a future of full-scale economies in space. Chris Lewicki says, "We are on a technology path to implement our asteroid exploration program by the second half of 2020 and the launch of our Arkyd 6 satellite from an Indian PSLV rocket later this year will advance this work." Arkyd 6, which is equipped with a midwave infrared imager, will serve as a platform to try out different ideas, particularly those that could reduce the cost of asteroid exploration by a factor of 20. He says the primary aim is to test the sensors that will detect the hy- drated minerals on asteroids. "We're testing those out on the Arkyd 6 and the things we learn will enable us to move into our next satellites - ones that by the end of 2020 will find their way to a near-Earth asteroid." The business Planetary Resources is in today in terms of the min- ing value chain, according to Chris Lewicki, is discovery and pros- pecting. "The tools are a little different but fundamentally, we are answering the same questions. We will inform in terms of different potential properties we might develop – grades, accessibility, to a certain extent mineralisation - and then outline and assess the var- ious risk factors. "In a traditional mining project risk is anywhere from local political environment to labour, to energy, infrastructure, native people and environment. The risks are not quite the same in space – labour is a little different, there are no native people we know about at present and environment has different parameters. "One of the things that motivates us at Planetary Resources is we see the opportunity to be an early mover, or maybe a first mover, in what will ultimately be the most valuable real estate in space. "There is a best asteroid and our objective in the next four years is to figure out which one it is. From a short list of about 150, we are narrowing that to about a dozen. It might not be the biggest and will depend on things like production cost, proximity, accessibility and many of the things that apply to any mine on Earth. "Our aim is to get the mining industry to see our work as a continu- ation of mining – as its future. We are not competing with mining, we are extending it into a new area of opportunity. It's not about bringing minerals back, it's about taking people into space and using the minerals when we get there. "We are a niche in the resource industry rather than being an oddity of the space industry and our projects will be undertaken, implemented, executed and transacted in the resource industry," he concludes. There are asteroids that can be accessed relatively easily from Earth.

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