JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The small country of Luxembourg has become the first European nation to pass a space mining law, which recognises that private owners have rights to the resources extracted in space.
The new law, which will enter into force on August 1, also establishes procedures for authorising and supervising space exploration missions.
The passing of the law is a key action in the Luxembourg government’s overall strategy of supporting long-term economic development of new, innovative activities in the space industry. The country believes mining space resources may come surprisingly quickly, noting that expeditions to near-Earth asteroids have already yielded remarkable discoveries.
Until recently, space exploration was the preserve of national governments and international agencies with access to significant financial resources. Today, private investors and companies are using lower-cost technologies and have at their disposal financial resources to launch satellites to explore the opportunities for mining near-Earth objects (NEOs).
Last year, Luxembourg launched its SpaceResources.lu initiative, which defines a framework for the exploration and commercial usage of resources from NEOs, such as asteroids. Through this initiative, the country is supporting research and development projects of private players in the space mining industry that have set up operations in the country.
US-headquartered companies Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources have set up subsidiaries in Luxembourg.
Planetary Resources hailed the passing of the new law on Thursday, saying it provides a strong basis for stability and predictability of its current and future asteroid mining operations.
“Luxembourg continues to be a strong partner and a global leader. They are genuinely forward thinking, have a proven record in the satellite industry, and are making their mark on the space mining industry. The passage of this law today is further proof of that,” said Planetary Resources president and CEO Chris Lewicki.
In 2015, the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act became law, which recognises the right of US citizens to own asteroid resources they obtain and encourage commercial exploration and utilisation of resources from asteroids.
Many asteroids contain significant, highly concentrated quantities of metals such as iron, nickel, tungsten and cobalt, while ammonia, nitrogen, hydrogen and other useful gases have been detected. In the long term, harvesting resources from space is seen as a possibility to sustain life on Earth, but the immediate focus of space exploration is to extract resources that can be applied to technologies used in space.