In the coming decades, the mining of precious minerals in space is likely to have a major impact on the global economy. And existing laws are nowhere near ready for the shift
Zip into the future for a second. It’s 2035 and Earth’s population has grown dramatically. People are desperate to find alternatives to the dwindling natural resources needed to keep the global economy functioning. We have bled the Earth dry.
In January 2035, a US company becomes the first to successfully mine minerals from space and transport the cargo back to Earth. The haul contains huge quantities of gold and platinum, although it is only a fraction of the resources from the asteroid. The price of gold falls by 50 per cent.
In the spring of 2014, a team of 20 students took part in a role-playing game, in which they were placed in the above scenario. Pretending to be at the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) conference, dedicated to space mining, the students acted out how they believed each nation would respond to this completely new idea of global wealth.
The results of the roleplay have now been detailed as part of a study by researchers from Tel Aviv University, Israel, looking into the impact space mining could have on the world.
“The realisation of space exploitation will disrupt world politics,” explains Deganit Paikowsky, lead author of the paper. “We present in this paper a review of current space mining ventures, and the international legislation, which could stand in their way – or aid them in their mission.”
The researchers describes a situation in which one private company wins the race to space mining, immediately reducing the value of once precious commodities on Earth. The situation is not unlikely to happen in the future given current advances in technology.
However, according to the experts, our law is not ready for it.