Main site of science textbooks
Crowdfunding site for the
free online science textbook project

Asteroid mining

The Sudbury basin was formed by a ~ 12 km metallic meteor that struck 1.849 billion years ago. It is rich in platinum, palladium, gold, nickel, and copper.

A metallic asteroid consists of elements that are at least as dense as iron (7.9 g/cm^3). If we assume that the composition of a metallic asteroid mirrors the composition of the sun,

```           ppm    k\$/kg        B\$

Platinum     19     55      10.4
Nickel    67000       .015  10.0
Rhodium       4.1   90       3.7
Iron     910000       .0003  2.7
Cobalt     6300       .030   1.9
Gold          1.8   60       1.08
Osmium        7.6   12        .91
Germanium    37      2.0      .74
Ruthenium    11      5.5      .60
Palladium     3.8   14        .53
Iridium       3.0   14        .42
Gallium      80       .28     .22
Zirconium     8      1.6      .13
Rhenium        .85   5        .04

ppm:    Parts per million in a metallic asteroid
k\$/kg:  Price of the element in k\$/kg
B\$:     Value of the element in a 1010 kg asteroid
```
The elements that are potentially worth mining are nickel, platinum, and rhodium.
```Platinum in the Earth's crust          ~  .005 parts per million
Platinum in ore from the Sudbury mine  ~  .5   parts per million
Annual platinum production             ~  A few hundred tons per year
Platinum used in mufflers per year     ~  130 tons
```

Distilling the asteroid

Heating the asteroid to 3200 Kelvin boils off the iron, nickel, and cobalt, leving behind:

```Platinum      19
Ruthenium     11
Tungsten       8.1
Zirconium      8
Osmium         7.6
Molybdenum     7.3
Rhodium        4.1
Iridium        3.0
Rhenium         .85
```

Universe composition
```       Big bang   Milky Way   Sun       Earth     Iron    Amplification
asteroid
Hydrogen  750000   739000   750000        1500       0       0
Helium    230000   240000   230000                   0       0
Oxygen     10000    10400     9000      460000       0       0
Carbon      5000     4600     3000        1800    1100        .042
Neon        1300     1340     1000                   0       0
Iron        1100     1090     1000       63000  910000       1
Nitrogen    1000      960     1000          20      33        .11
Silicon      700      650      900      270000      40        .000010
Magnesium    600      580      700       29000     320        .00076
Sulfur       500      440      400         420     360        .059
Calcium                                  50000     500        .00069
Potassium                                15000       0       0
Aluminum      50                60       82000      40        .000034
Sodium        20                40       23000       0       0
Phosphorus     7                 7        1000    2200        .15
Beryllium       .001              .0001      1.9     0       0
Lithium         .006              .0001     17       0       0
Boron           .001              .002       8.7     0       0
Fluorine        .4                .5       540       0       0
Chlorine       1                 8         170       0       0
Argon           .04             70                   0       0
Scandium        .03               .04       26       0       0
Titanium       3                 4        6600     100        .0010
Vanadium       1                  .4       190       6        .0022
Chromium      15                20         140      15        .0074
Manganese      8                10        1100     300        .019
Iron        1100     1090     1000       63000  910000       1
Cobalt         3                 4          30    6300      14.5
Nickel        60                80          90   67000      52
Copper          .06               .7        68     130        .13
Zinc            .3               2          79      28        .025
Gallium         .01               .04       19      80        .29
Germanium       .2                .2         1.4    37       1.8
Krypton         .04                                  0       0
Strontium                                  360       0       0
Ytterbium       .007              .01        2.8     0       0
Zirconium       .05               .04      130       8        .0043
Niobium         .002              .004      17        .2      .00081
Molybdenum      .005              .009       1.1     7.3      .46
Ruthenium       .004              .005        .001  11     762
Rhodium         .0006             .002        .001   4.1   284
Palladium       .002              .003        .006   3.8    44
Silver          .0006             .001        .08     .035    .030
Cadmium         .002              .006        .15     .02     .0092
Indium          .0003             .004        .16     .01     .0043
Tin             .004              .009       2.2     2        .063
Antimony        .0004             .001                .34
Lutetium        .0001             .001               -
Hafnium         .0007             .001       3.3     0       0
Tantalum        .0001                        1.7      .06     .0024
Tungsten        .0005             .004       1.1     8.1      .51
Rhenium         .0002             .004        .003    .85   20
Osmium          .003              .002        .002   7.6   263
Iridium         .002              .002        .001   3.0   208
Platinum        .005              .009        .004  19     329
Gold            .0006             .001        .003   1.8    42
Mercury         .001              .02         .067   0        .42
Thallium        .0005             .001               0       0
Lead            .01               .01       10      60        .42
Bismuth         .0007             .01         .025    .5     1.4
Thorium         .0004             .0003      6        .04     .00046
Uranium         .0002             .001       1.8      .007    .00027
Neodymium                                   33
Lanthanum                                   34
Yttrium                                     29
Samarium                                     6
Cerium                                      60
Barium                                     340
Rubidium                                    60
Praseo                                       8.7
Dysprosium                                   6.2
Erbium                                       3.0
Caesium                                      1.9
Europium                                     1.8
Arsenic                                      2.1    11        .36
Holmium                                      1.2
Terbium                                       .94
Thulium                                       .45
Bromine                                      3
Thallium                                      .53
Antimony                                      .2
Iodine                                        .49
Selenium                                      .05    3       4.2
Tellurium                                     .001
```
Numbers in parts per million by mass. "Amplification" is the degree of focusing of the element from the Earth to the core relative to iron.
Asteroid delivery

If a 1010 kg asteroid is broken with a hydrogen bomb then

```Mass of the asteroid            =  M  =  1010 kg
Energy of the hydrogen bomb     =  E  =  .5 M V2  =  4e16 Joules   (10 megatons of TNT)
Speed of the asteroid fragments =  V  =  3 km/s
```
A hydrogen bomb is capable of moving an asteroid.

Main page

Support the free online science textbooks project