Luxembourg aims to be big player in possible asteroid mining
Luxembourg has declared its intention to blaze a trail in asteroid mining in the hope that it will reap lucrative returns.
The small country’s government said on Wednesday it would invest in space mining companies and establish a legal framework to assure those engaging in the activity that they can keep the fruit of their toils.
The 1967 outer space treaty appeared to designate space as public property, meaning no one could claim sovereignty over asteroids. But companies have recently challenged that interpretation, and in November Barack Obama signed a law enabling US citizens to obtain their own asteroids, mine them and keep what they find.
Now Luxembourg has staked its claim, hoping it can become a European hub for the futurist activity. Its declared aims are to stimulate economic growth on Earth and offer new horizons in space exploration.
The country’s deputy prime minister, Étienne Schneider, said: “Our aim is to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources, on lifeless rocks hurtling through space, without damaging natural habitats.
“We will support the long-term economic development of new, innovative activities in the space and satellite industries as a key high-tech sector for Luxembourg. At first, our aim is to carry out research in this area, which at a later stage can lead to more concrete activities in space.”
Asteroids vary in their composition, but some are rich in platinum-group materials and other highly valued metals.
Luxembourg, with a population of just over 540,000, punches above its weight in the space sector as home to the satellite operator SES.
Two US companies, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, are in a race to be the first to commercially mine an asteroid. They both welcomed Luxembourg’s announcement.
Jean-Jacques Dordain, former director general of the European Space Agency (ESA) and adviser to Luxembourg’s government on the project, said: “This initiative is a clear demonstration that Europeans are innovative and able to take risks when the stakes are high.
“While futuristic, the project is based on solid grounds, ie technical prowess that already exists in Europe and around the world.”