Monday, February 25, 2019

Will Australia Become the Third Nation to Encourage Private Sector Space Mining?

          By Chuck Black

Both the United States, with its "Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015," and the Grand Duchy of Luxemboug are well known for recent legislation allowing their citizens and domestically based corporations to claim ownership over space based resources.

Mars (on the left) has more than a little in common with the Australian outback (on the right) according to the December 4th, 2014 ABC News Australia post, "Mars V Australian Outback." As outlined in the June 10th, 2018 VentureBeat post, "The best countries for tech companies: 2018 rankings," the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has named Australia, Singapore and Sweden as "the countries most prepared for technological change, and the most attractive places for tech companies to invest in the next five years." It's a shame that Canada wasn't in the top ten rankings. Photo's c/o NASA and Jane Stapleton.

Those laws are designed specifically to encourage private sector extraterrestrial exploration and resource extraction. Now it looks like a third nation could soon be following along the same path.

As outlined in the February 14th, 2019 the Conversation post, "Australia: well placed to join the Moon mining race … or is it?," there has certainly been a lot of discussion on the topic since the establishment of the Australian Space Agency on July 1st, 2018.

Australia's Space Roadmap. Cover c/o CSIRO.
The article noted that one of the priorities of the new space agency is "developing a strategy to position Australia as an international leader in specialized space capabilities" such as space mining.

It also pointed out that terrestrial mining operations often use autonomous drills, robotic tools optimized for extreme environments and other high-tech tools which could be useful for mining operations on Mars or the asteroids.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the independent Australian federal government agency responsible for scientific research, has noted space resource utilization as a key element of its 2018 Space Road Map, more formally known as "Space: A Roadmap for unlocking future growth opportunities for Australia."

As outlined in the Space Road Map:
Australian industry has a unique opportunity to leverage the nation's strengths and advantages to increase its role in the international space sector by providing strategic contributions to global value chains that result in economic return and improve the lives of Australians. 
These include:
  • Growing the ecosystem and downstream utilisation of space-derived data and services, such as Earth Observation, positioning navigation and timing, and satellite communications.
  • Building an Australian industry to track space objects to ensure the continued availability of space assets.
  • Leveraging Australia's research and industrial strengths to develop cutting edge technology for global space exploration and utilization.

The Wilde Project is named after Oscar Wilde (it's a long story), and includes Australian researchers from multiple schools and faculties organized through the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney. It plans to design a space mission to "process water from the permanently shadowed craters at moon’s poles" to demonstrate the feasibility of a variety of tools and methodologies to the mining community since "both the (Australian) space agency and CSIRO now have it as a priority." Screen shot c/o UNSW Engineering.

But while Australia has (so far at least) not moved forward with the necessary legal regulations needed for citizens and domestically based corporations to claim ownership over space based resources, the national news outlets have starting to notice the local mining expertise and how that skill-set is applicable to the space industry.

According to the February 22nd, 2016 Huffington Post Australia article, "Australia Will Lead The Way In Space Mining Because We're Used To Operating In Isolated, Extreme Environments."

As outlined in the December 4th, 2017 WA Today post, "Gold, water and platinum: Australians lead the way towards asteroid mining boom," Australia "will have asteroid mining before we have people living on Mars," because "there is money involved."

It's odd that no one in Canada has figured this out.

Mining in Australia, much like mining in Canada, is a significant primary industry and contributor to the domestic economy.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

1 comment:

  1. in 2016, the Canadian mining sector contributed more than 56 billion to the GDP. [] with over 400,000 direct jobs

    Aerospace contributed only 25 billion (2% of that was space sector)[]

    Mining typically invests far less in innovation than the oil and gas sector.

    Maybe it is time we got rolling?



Support our Patreon Page