Asteroids contain metals worth quintillions of dollars — but mining them won’t necessarily make your richer than Bezos or Musk

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Asteroids contain metals worth quintillions of dollars — but mining them won’t necessarily make your richer than Bezos or Musk
Representative image of asteroid miningNASA
  • Asteroids aren’t just chunks of ice and rock, but storehouses of precious metals.
  • The asteroid belt is estimated to contain $700 quintillion worth of resources.
  • Mining for metals won’t make you richer than Bezos and Musk unless you can create your own monopoly.
  • Flooding the market will only drive down prices.
There are over a million asteroids that are being tracked by astronomers, and getting your hands on just one of them would be enough to set you up for life. However, the question of value isn’t all that simple.

The good news is that you don’t have to look too far to find asteroids with a host of metals on board. Most of these nuggets of fortune lie between Mars and Jupiter, within the asteroid belt. The asteroid belt is home to over 1 million asteroids, including around 200 which are over 100 kilometres in diameter — a little bigger than Egypt.


According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA), the belt alone is home to around $700 quintillion — that’s $100 billion for every one of the seven billion people on Earth.
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The most valuable asteroid in the belt is Davida. It has a diameter of 326 kilometres and has a resource value of almost $27 quintillion.


Mining an asteroid won’t make you richer than Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk


Ignoring the many technical challenges of mining an asteroid — like needing robots, spacecraft and other technology that doesn’t exist in today’s age — getting your hands on those resources won’t make you a rich person overnight.
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Yes, asteroids will likely be mined for metals sometime in the future. But once those metals start hitting the market, back here on Earth, the influx of supply will likely drive their prices into the ground. Gold, platinum and other metals will no longer be ‘precious’ because they will no longer be scarce.

Moreover, metals aren’t expensive because of their inherent value. They’re expensive because of the value they provide. Steel is just steel until it can be used to make parts of cars. Silver has been getting more expensive because it’s being used in solar panels.

A giant asteroid full of gold could fund existing industries on the planet, but it’s unlikely to spark a new industrial revolution. Just because asteroid mining will make more gold available, it doesn’t mean that demand will rise to the occasion.
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This is precisely why billionaire Elon Musk is ready to bet on cryptocurrencies. According to him, asteroid mining could chip away at gold’s status as a store of wealth.

There is one way out, and we already know it works



One way to control the value of metals is to control the supply. You can have tonnes and tonnes of gold in your kitty, but if that gold doesn’t hit the market — it’s value won’t go down.
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We have already seen an example of this happen with diamonds. These chunky little rocks weren’t always a ‘status symbol’ or a ‘sign of commitment’. But the De Beers company changed all that.

All of South Africa’s diamond deposits were consolidated under the company’s letterhead, which essentially created a monopoly. A monopoly that was later controlled by the Oppenheimer family.

And De Beers is where most of the world’s diamonds come from till date. The Oppenheimers have been able to maintain their monopoly by hoarding diamonds where prices fell to drive them back up. They were also no stranger to flooding the market with diamonds in order to wipe out their competition.
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Being a powerhouse with the means to mine an asteroid could arguably pull off the same trick. A mission that companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries are already working on.

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