US mining firm eyes asteroids for minerals

London, July 20 (IANS) With minerals in short supply on earth, a US-based company is on its way to mining valuable minerals from asteroids that it believes will increase the world’s gross domestic product (GDP)

Asteroid 2011 UW-158, which passed Earth late on Sunday at a distance of about 2.4 million km, was believed to be carrying up to 90 million tonnes of platinum worth more than $5 trillion, Sky News reported.

“Nations cannot claim a celestial object but a private company can so if they can get there and they can mine it with all that platinum then good luck to them, it is all theirs,” US astronomer Bob Berman was quoted as saying.

Berman said Planetary Resources, a US-based firm which says on its website that it aims to bring “the natural resources of space within humanity’s economic sphere of influence”, has been testing technologies for mining asteroids.

The firm on July 16 launched from the International Space Station their first demonstration vehicle — Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R) — to test the avionics, control systems and software needed to mine asteroids.

The data during its 90-day orbiting mission will be sent to scientists at Planetary Resources’ headquarters in the US city of Redmond in Washington state.

“Our team is developing the technology that will enable humanity to create an off-planet economy that will fundamentally change the way we live on Earth,” said Peter H. Diamandis, co-founder and co-chairman of Planetary Resources, after the launch of A3R.

“Rare metals will increase Earth’s GDP when mined from asteroids in our solar system,” Planetary Resources said on its website.

“Today, the major sources of platinum group metals are concentrated in South Africa and Russia and becoming increasingly hard to access over time. But in space, a single 500-metre platinum-rich asteroid contains more platinum than has been mined in the history of humanity,” the company said.

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