OSIRIS-REx’s Asteroid Samples Trigger the Search to Mine Metals Closer to Home

    The excitement over the achievement of landing samples from the asteroid Bennu billions of miles away ignores the fact that humans are still happy ripping up the Earth for metals. And, as it will take many years for companies to commercially mine asteroids, will our eco-strife-hit planet survive the wait?

    Taking a more realistic approach are the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), focusing on how European countries can meet the EU Raw Materials Act, and its 2030 deadline to:

    • Extract 10%+ of the designated metals and minerals it consumes.
    • Perform 40% of metals and minerals processing.
    • Boost recycling to 15% of recycling.


    With the rare-earth elements in our smartphones and other tech also causing a crisis, the race is on to sustainably deliver collaborative efforts to use them more efficiently. RISE reports, “In Sweden and the Nordic region in particular, there is great potential for mining a larger proportion of the rare and strategically important metals and minerals required for the energy transition.”

    Mining for Good

    They plan to work with partners to do so in a cost-effective way to compete with nations where poor environmental controls and low wages make the cost of metals highly appealing. RISE and partners look to use their experience in sustainable mining, compliance with environmental regulations, and other advantages to drive local acceptance and develop frameworks for sustainable mining.

    Earlier this year, EU rules, put forward the Critical Raw Materials Act to reduce our reliance on those cheap sources of metal and rare earth element imports. RISE and its partners are looking to find the answers to the questions that arise when looking at the EU’s plans. All this at a time when companies plan deep-sea mining, asteroid mining and other costly efforts, when ignoring the need to recycle existing metals and finding them closer to home.

    In the UK, historic tin and copper mines along with new sites in Cornwall are reinvestigated for lithium and other metals. Using new technology to extract the valuable materials will bring costs down, eventually. But anyone with a hole in the ground has a lot of work claiming “wild riches” has a long way to go to make it environmentally and economically accessible.

    RISE’s Christina Jönsson highlights that “If a new battery or solar cell technology is developed, the system must quickly absorb that knowledge, even if you have invested in previous technologies. It needs agility, which is not easy when it comes to large investments into infrastructure or lists of essential metals and minerals, which in turn determines which strategic projects the EU should invest in.”

    Image credit Dion Beetson

    Geoff Spick
    Geoff Spick
    I started writing about consumer technology, video games, and teaching people how to use Windows and the Internet back in the 90s, before switching to the world of B2B content. I have written for research for Gartner, marketing content for Infor and a broad range of startups, SMBs, and enterprises. All with a focus on delivering value and useful information to the right audience, from leaders to operators and end users, and adding some humanity in a world of increasingly robotic content.

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