Luxembourg seeks deep impact in asteroid mining

Luxembourg hopes to become a leader in the sector by putting in place legal guidelines on ownership of extracted minerals. [David Santaolalla/Flickr]

Luxembourg has announced its intention to become a “European reference” within the field of exploiting and utilising off-planet resources, such as minerals mined from asteroids.

Yesterday (3 February), the Luxembourg government said that it would develop a legal and regulatory framework in order to provide “certainty over the future ownership of minerals extracted in space” from Near-Earth Objects (NEOs), such as asteroids.

“Our objective is to tap into previously unexplored mineral resources in space, without damaging natural habitats,” said the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy, Etienne Schneider.

The Luxembourg authorities claim to be the first European country to announce its aim of creating legislation to govern private initiatives operating in space, so that they would “have certainty regarding their rights to extract resources”, such as rare minerals.

They said that any future legislation would take into “full consideration” international law and that they are willing to work towards a multilateral agreement with the participation of other countries.

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Luxembourg is confident that this will promote “an exciting and totally new space industry”, which will offer “unprecedented access to mineral resources” and “stimulate economic growth on Earth and offer new horizons of space exploration”.

The budget of will come from the country’s national budget and will be taken into account in Luxembourg’s next contribution to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) budget, which will be decided in December 2016.

Schneider confirmed that Luxembourg’s immediate goal is to carry out preliminary research, before moving onto actual operations in space itself.

Former ESA director Jean-Jacques Dordain and current advisor to the Luxembourg government made assurances that despite the “futuristic” nature of the project “it is based on solid foundations”, from a technical standpoint.

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