To mine the moon

The harvest moon of Sept. 10, 2014. PHOTO: Ross Elliott, Creative Commons license.

The harvest moon of Sept. 10, 2014. (PHOTO: Ross Elliott, Creative Commons license).

With news this week about risks to miners’ health and continuing controversy over new forms of mining in Northern Minnesota, one is left wondering where the mining action of the future will be found. Well, look no further. One British lunar researcher is suggesting that we might look to the sky for the next untapped mineral range of the future.

That’s the argument posed by Ian Crawford in “Why We Should Mine the Moon,” published Nov. 30, 2014 in IFL Science.

And yes, Crawford accounts for the difficulty in getting heavy materials back to earth in a safe, profitable way. He says it wouldn’t work to haul space trains full of taconite pellets down to Cape Carnegie somewhere in Ohio, but rather to find economic uses for fuel and materials in servicing a space industry, including improved communication satellites, research and other yet unknown sectors.

You could serve these industries because launching a rocket from the moon is twenty times easier than launching one from earth, due to the lower gravitational pull.

What’s on the moon? Lots of stuff: Ice crystals, frozen fuels, magnesium, aluminium, silicon, iron and titanium.

What could go wrong? Lots of stuff: Space accidents, finding capital to invest, territorial disputes on the moon, global war, cracking the moon in half to reveal the equivalent of a space hornets’ nest. In other words, the screenplay I’m workshopping right now.

Crawford’s conclusion:

When we pull together the evidence, it remains difficult to identify any single lunar resource that will be sufficiently valuable to drive a mining industry on its own. There is no simple solution. However, the Moon does possess abundant raw materials that are of potential economic interest.

We need to think of a hierarchy of future applications. This begins with the use of lunar materials to facilitate human activities on the Moon itself. We can then progress to the use of lunar resources to underpin a future industrial capability within the Earth-Moon system. In this way, gradually increasing access to lunar resources may help “bootstrap” a self-sustaining space-based economy from which the global economy will ultimately benefit.


  1. The “green” crowd will protest moon mining too I’m sure. We just spent 5M on a study that didn’t come up with any concrete solutions or answers to mesothelioma and mining . The call went out for more studies of course. Greenies are protesting mining cooper/nickel up here where companies have gone thru the ringer to meet unrealistic regulations but don’t care that the same cooper/nickel is mined world wide without any regulations at all…. The “we care about the world ” crap will turn to we care about the universe if mining ever started on moon….. The same loons that buy into the crap sold to them now by uber elites will protest moon mining for sure……. Sad….

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