Usually this blog focuses on the positive – on the how you could make this happen. Today we are going to look at how hard it actually would be to close such a business case.
- Mission: Mine platinum on NEOs and return the processed ore to earth for sale and consumption. Sale of platinum sole revenue source for the mission.
- Mining Efficiency: for every one kilogram of mining equipment launched, the machinery could mine 100 times that amount of NEO material (2500kg mining device could mine 250,000kg of NEO material)
- Mining Device mass: 2500 kg
- Platinum concentrations on the NEO: 0.3%
- Price of Platinum per kilogram: $58,500
- Mission Cost: $600M
Based on these assumptions, the sale of the platinum mined on the asteroid would cover 7% of the mission costs. This business plan stinks. Not 7%, that seems too small. Really? Only 7% of mission costs could be covered with the assumptions above? Well how elastic are these assumptions? How far would we have to modify the assumptions to get more satisfying results?
Below I explored five what-if’s:
- What if platinum was found in higher concentrations?
- What if the mining device could mine more?
- What if the price of platinum were higher?
- What if mission costs were reduced?
- A Hybrid what-if.
The table below shows platinum concentrations would have to exceed 4% to cover mission costs.
What if the mining device could mine more.
The table below shows the mining device would need to mine over 1300x its own mass to cover mission costs.
What if the price of platinum were higher.
The table below shows the price of platinum would need to balloon to $800,000 per kg to cover mission costs.
What if mission costs were reduced.
The table below shows mission costs would need to be reduced to $44M.
- Mining asteroids is hard
- Platinum mining to serve terrestrial applications is ridiculously hard to justify using these baseline assumptions
- Entrepreneurs may have to seek business plans that fundamentally change these assumptions or offer their product to non-terrestrial customers
A Hybrid what-if.
But I can’t leave a post with such reserved pessimism. The table below shows that if an entrepreneur could find a NEO with platinum concentrations significantly higher than average even while assuming a less efficient mining device, such a mission may be possible if the costs could be reduced to less than $150M.
Have fun (in a nerdy spreadsheet kind of way) building your own platinum mission by using the spreadsheet located here.
[UPDATE: I fixed the spreadsheet so readers can download the file in MS Excel]