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Thread: Gold Mining on The Moon

  1. #31
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    So...those LCROSS results...are they raw results or have they been adjusted to account for the material in the impactor itself? After all, it would be terrible to go through the trouble of sending a prospector to the moon to discover the gold results came from the foil the impactor was wrapped. (After all, the cost of making a space suit for a mule is astronomical.)

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGClark View Post
    Warren, I don't believe you really believe [that we need to spend $1B/year on Lunar robotic exploration to do it right]. The LCROSS mission showed it is possible to do low cost precursor missions. One small, simple lander placed in the LCROSS crater site could confirm the numbers returned by LCROSS. After that, mining companies would be chomping at the bit to pay for more detailed in situ surveys - with the promise they could exploit the resources there.
    A big part of the LCROSS teams ability to save cost was not having to pay for the launch since it piggy backed on a mission already paid for. I had a discussion on this score on another forum about the Google Lunar X-Prize entrants possibly saving on launch costs by piggy backing on some commercial launches. The objection was made, legitimately, that the commercial satellite operators would not want to risk their multimillion dollar satellites on attached propellant filled spacecraft built by amateurs.
    However, if the piggybacked spacecraft was built by NASA with decades of experience behind them then they could be assured of its reliability and at least some of the launch cost could be paid for by NASA.


    Bob Clark


    Think of the volatiles explorer rover that's been proposed. $1B for a lander that will work for 4.4 days. We have a manned space program. The available budget would be 6 to 7 $B/year, compared to the paltry few hundred million USD, if that (since Lunar missions must compete against sexier missions to the Outer planets), that's currently available. Humans could be on the Moon by 2020. the Volatiles Explorer won't be ready until 2018 at the earliest. So rovers aren't that much cheaper, nor are they much faster, and there functionality is much, much less than a full-blown manned program would be.

    As for mining companies chomping at the bit with a promise that they'll get to exploit the resource: that's a laugh. Right now there is absolutely no legal prohibition against claim jumping on the Moon. If an American company spent the money to prospect the resource and figure out how to set up mining and refining operations, there is nothing to prevent a Chinese company from setting up shop right next door.

    If we're serious about mining on the Moon, we need to take a close look at the Outer Space Treaty. I think large semi-sovereign Exclusive Economic Zones should be permanently deeded to the first country that sets up a permanently manned station on the Moon for 10 years. The laws and regulations of this country would then govern mineral exploitation within that EEZ. This would radically reduce the uncertainty currently faced by would-be Lunar mining companies.

    There are two polar regions. The US really only has the resources to set up one station. (I would vote for the Northern region). That would leave the Southern region available for a rival space power to homestead, if it so desired. (Or once the US got ISRU propellant going in the North, it would then have free resources with which to claim the South as well.)

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGClark View Post
    What HAS to be done, like yesterday, is to send lander missions to confirm those startling amounts indicated by the LCROSS mission.
    That's exactly my point. Although knowing the methods is interesting, there's nothing we can relate until we know how the conditions will affect the process.
    I just saw no point in the way you presented the link.
    Quote Originally Posted by RGClark View Post
    That's nice to be done at some point, but the problem is NASA always wants to do these billion dollar missions. LCROSS was the perfect mission because it returned such profoundly important results and at low cost, only $79 million, like pocket change for planetary missions
    As pointed out, bombing the moon (or any other planetary object) will be pocket change.

    But; you pointed out these Billion dollar missions. "Always" is not the case.
    I did a little casually poking around to get a feel for what's out there. I just grabbed missions off wiki and attempted to find mentions of costs, so my numbers may be inaccurate and don't reflect inflation so they may be misleading. But; I think it's enough to grab the essence of the costs.
    (numbers in millions)
    Mercury
    Mariner 10 $554
    Messenger $286
    BepiColombo e665
    Venus
    Mariner 2 $100
    Venera d $1,700
    Mars
    viking $1,000
    Pathfinder $280
    Phoenix $386
    MRO $720
    Rosetta e1,000
    MERS $820 (combined, for the initial 90sol mission)
    Beagle 2 $120 (lost)
    Mars Express e300
    Mars Odyssey $297

    I see quite a few low cost NASA missions and quite a few high cost Non-NASA missions.
    The important part is to compare the costs to the ability of the craft and the science.

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Damburger View Post
    The price of gold give in the OP is only one order of magnitude higher than the cost of putting stuff in LEO. Likely, the complication of retrieving it from the Moon would push the price/kg up beyond the price of gold.
    Only true if all the propellant comes from Earth. As a very rough approximation, I figure it would take about 70 tons of propellant to get 50 tons of gold to L2, and then another 100 tons of propellant to get it to LEO (assumes no aerobraking). @$5K/kg, then the 100 tons at L2 will cost $1.2B USD. Then it will take at least 140 tons at L2 to deliver the 70 tons needed to get off the Moon, so that's another $1.7B for a total of $2.9B. If the price of gold is $50K/kg, then the 50 tons of gold will be worth $2.5B--less than the shipping costs.

    On the other hand, if Lunar derived propellant were available for $1K/kg at the surface of the Moon, it would take 300 tons at the surface to get the gold to LEO. 300 tons * $1K/kg = $3M, about 1/8th of the worth of the gold itself. Not too bad--that would make it worth it.

    Of course getting it to LEO is only half the battle: to get that kind of mass to the surface of Planet Earth would require the Space Shuttle or an equivalent system. Unfortunately, the Shuttle is being discontinued.

    But as I said above, why deliver it at all? There was an interesting story on the radio this morning about the Island of Yap, also known as the Island of Stone Money. They had no gold, so they carved giant wheels of polished stone for money instead. One of these wheels was lost at sea. But no matter, the ownership of the stone by a certain family was acknowledged by all, and so they retained the wealth that the stone at the bottom of the sea represented.

    A similar example happened in 1932 when France cashed out all it's USD for gold (we were still on the gold standard at the time). But instead of taking delivery of the gold, the feds simply went downstairs and earmarked a bunch of gold bars as belonging to France instead of the US of A. This had international repercussions and was arguably at least partially responsible for the subsequent banking crisis. In general, nobody takes possession of their money in gold, except for crazy survivalists. So just leave the gold on the Moon, and sell it from there. No transpo costs at all that way.
    __________________________________________

    Milton Friedman (1991) "The Island of Stone Money" (pdf 200 KB)
    Last edited by Warren Platts; 2010-Dec-11 at 03:31 AM.

  5. #35
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    If you're going to leave it on the moon, then why bother to refine it at all. If we know the amount and distribution of Gold to a confident degree of accuracy that's enought to commit billions to mining it, why bother mining it at all? Just say "OK - the potential gold in this acre of Mars is mine". Lunar Mineral Rights, basically.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by djellison View Post
    If you're going to leave it on the moon, then why bother to refine it at all. If we know the amount and distribution of Gold to a confident degree of accuracy that's enough to commit billions to mining it, why bother mining it at all? Just say "OK - the potential gold in this acre of Mars is mine". Lunar Mineral Rights, basically.
    And possibly the basis for a fraud charge in certain nations should you attempt to use those 'rights' for commercial gain. Frankly you might be able to work around the UN Space treaty for a fuel plant, there is no way you will do it for a gold mine, especially when at least one major spacefaring nation is also a significant gold producer.

  7. #37
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    Bingo. Nobody 'owns' nor can 'own' the moon, thus I might suggest there is some legal negotiation that needs to occur before anyone starts digging up big chunks of it for use and/or profit.

  8. #38
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    Odds are that someone already owns it.

    After all, The lunar embassy has already sold 4.5 million acres of it, and if I did my research right, then it includes all mineral rights.

    So; go ahead and mine if you want, but be careful you do it on free land, and don't get in the way of all those prospectors panning for it. You might get kicked in the youknowwhere by one of thier mules.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug
    If you're going to leave it on the moon, then why bother to refine it at all. If we know the amount and distribution of Gold to a confident degree of accuracy that's enought to commit billions to mining it, why bother mining it at all? Just say "OK - the potential gold in this acre of Mars is mine". Lunar Mineral Rights, basically.
    No, the traditional form of money is to go to a remote spot, then dig it out, and refine it. Check out the Milton Friedman paper: it's fascinating and it's short. For one thing, there's no way to exactly quantify the amount of gold in a given reserve. Nobody on Earth considers estimated gold ore reserves to be money. E.g., the Yap Islanders would travel 400 miles to a neighboring island where a high quality limestone quarry was located. Then a lot of labor was expended digging it out, carving and polishing the stone wheel. Because the wheels were so heavy, when someone bought something with a wheel, typically, the wheel was never moved, but the ownership of the wheel was universally recognized to have transerred to the person who sold the good or property. The function of money is to store wealth. But it's not necessary to have that money in your back pocket in order for everyone else to recognize that you have that wealth.

    Bingo. Nobody 'owns' nor can 'own' the moon, thus I might suggest there is some legal negotiation that needs to occur before anyone starts digging up big chunks of it for use and/or profit.
    No Bingo. Nobody can own surface rights or mineral rights on the Moon, but anyone is free to go up there and mine. Once the ore is taken from the ground the ownership of that ore and any subsequent refined products become the property of the entity that mined it. One's abilty it exclude others from the area, however, is limited to a relatively small "safety zone".

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Platts View Post
    No Bingo. Nobody can own surface rights or mineral rights on the Moon, but anyone is free to go up there and mine. Once the ore is taken from the ground the ownership of that ore and any subsequent refined products become the property of the entity that mined it. One's abilty it exclude others from the area, however, is limited to a relatively small "safety zone".
    And you can provide a legal citation to back up that claim?

  11. #41
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    Sorry Warren - I'm afraid what I'm reading is that there is uncertainty regarding the legalize of doing so. The Outer Space Treaty doesn't say enough about it, and the Moon Treaty does, but isn't ratified by the relevant space fairing nations.

    http://www.wpi.edu/Pubs/E-project/Av...ightsFinal.pdf discusses it at length

    So does http://books.google.com/books?id=BKu...mining&f=false

    As far as I can tell there, currently, is no legal infrastructure to legislate off-earth mineral rights.

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by djellison View Post
    Sorry Warren - I'm afraid what I'm reading is that there is uncertainty regarding the legalize of doing so. The Outer Space Treaty doesn't say enough about it, and the Moon Treaty does, but isn't ratified by the relevant space fairing nations.

    http://www.wpi.edu/Pubs/E-project/Av...ightsFinal.pdf discusses it at length

    So does http://books.google.com/books?id=BKu...mining&f=false

    As far as I can tell there, currently, is no legal infrastructure to legislate off-earth mineral rights.
    Actually there is one legal technicality the USA could use to stop you, and I'm sure other nations have similar provisions. The Dragon had to have a license for re-entry . I'm guessing you try a launch without one and you'll have the feds all over you, unless the lunar miners aren't planning to ever come home?

  13. #43
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    And maybe it will occur to you that you could launch from some third world country that will simply take the money and not ask awkward questions, well then you better not plan on buying and shipping any US launchers to do that:

    export controls

  14. #44
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    Here's what I found that seems to be the text of the treaty.
    2222 (XXI). Treaty on Principles Governing the ...
    It does say this:
    The exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind.
    And as far as private industry:
    States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty.
    So; it is quite vague, but it's enough to convince me that anybody doing any kind of resource mining better be using it for research, spreading the wealth or using it for further exploration.

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    Clearly then the best thing to do would be for the USA to simply withdraw from the OST. The Bush administration seriously proposed doing just that back in 2004, because of the anti-commercial bias contained within the treaty. At the time, there were bigger fish to fry, and so the proposal was quietly dropped--no reason to rock the boat when it was unclear whether there was anything worth fighting for. But since 2004, what with all the water and potential mineral resources discovered by Chandrayaan, LRO, and LCROSS, probably the simplest thing to do is to do an end run around the OST by withdrawing from it.

  16. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    Here's what I found that seems to be the text of the treaty.
    2222 (XXI). Treaty on Principles Governing the ...
    It does say this:


    And as far as private industry:


    So; it is quite vague, but it's enough to convince me that anybody doing any kind of resource mining better be using it for research, spreading the wealth or using it for further exploration.
    Um, there are alternate interpretations. For example:

    Article 2: "Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies."

    Since mining is a land use, it is not prohibited by the OST. Read further:

    Article 8: "A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body. Ownership of objects launched into outer space, including objects landed or constructed on a celestial body, and of their component parts, is not affected by their presence in outer space or on a celestial body or by their return to the Earth. "

    A gold bar created out of mined Lunar gold is an object "constructed on a celestial body" and therefore belongs to the person or persons who constructed it. Moreover, such gold bars can be returned to Earth, and since they are the property of whoever mined it, then they can be sold on the open market. Indeed, even a pile of ore constructed by a bulldozer is a "constructed object" and therefore belongs to whoever dug it up.

    This is basically what I said above: no one can have surface or mineral rights to the Moon, but whatever one digs up belongs to the digger. The only problem with this setup, is that there's no way to exclude claim jumpers beyond a nominal safety zone.

    FWIW, I really don't think the US should withdraw from the OST, unless the UN digs in its heals and refuses to play ball. The OST should be amended so that a nation that fulfilled various conditions (such as 10 years continuous use and occupation) are granted fairly large EEZ's so that that nation's laws would control the mineral development within the EEZ. This will save the UN the trouble of having to develop a set of new mining regulations just for space. The sovereignty would nominally be retained by the UN as a common heritage of mankind, but for all practical purposes, the ground would be in effect the sovereign territory of the holder of the EEZ. This would be a good compromise that would allow development, while at the same time preserving the interests of humanity as a whole.

  17. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Platts View Post
    Clearly then the best thing to do would be for the USA to simply withdraw from the OST. The Bush administration seriously proposed doing just that back in 2004, because of the anti-commercial bias contained within the treaty. At the time, there were bigger fish to fry, and so the proposal was quietly dropped--no reason to rock the boat when it was unclear whether there was anything worth fighting for. But since 2004, what with all the water and potential mineral resources discovered by Chandrayaan, LRO, and LCROSS, probably the simplest thing to do is to do an end run around the OST by withdrawing from it.

    Your solution isn't simple, its just simplistic. They should rip up this treaty so someone can have a bunker full of gold on the moon? And again can you please provide a citation for your earlier claim about your legal rights over the mine? Oh and some reference to show the Bush administration ever seriously considered this course of action?

  18. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Platts View Post

    .... on a basis of equality and......free access to all areas of celestial bodies.[/b]"

    Since mining is a land use, it is not prohibited by the OST[
    If you're digging up parts of the moon and calling them your own - that's not equality. Moreover, I challenge someone to have 'free access' across your mining infrastructure.

    A gold bar created out of mined Lunar gold is an object "constructed on a celestial body" and therefore belongs to the person or persons who constructed it.
    That's a stretch, at best.

    I repeat Garrison's request for references and share the view that you're being overly simplistic on the issue.

  19. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Platts View Post
    Um, there are alternate interpretations. For example:

    Article 8: "A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body. Ownership of objects launched into outer space, including objects landed or constructed on a celestial body, and of their component parts, is not affected by their presence in outer space or on a celestial body or by their return to the Earth. "
    I switched around the bolding to point out that your interpretation is dubious at best. This part of the treaty seems to actually be referring to vehicles and equipment. It seems to me to be saying that A) the state in question has jurisdiction over and responsibility for their equipment and personnel. So for an extreme example if one astronaut kills another they would be tried under the laws of the nation that launched the craft. And B) that you can't just go to the moon and for example bring back Apollo hardware as souvenirs because its still the property of the US government even though its left on the moon, nor could you legally go and fish someone else's hardware out of the ocean after re-entry.
    Last edited by Garrison; 2010-Dec-10 at 11:31 PM. Reason: extra words

  20. #50
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    Unhappy

    Quote Originally Posted by Garrison View Post
    I switched around the bolding to point out that your interpretation is dubious at best. This part of the treaty seems to actually be referring to vehicles and equipment. It seems to me to be saying that A) the state in question has jurisdiction over and responsibility for their equipment and personnel.
    This is true only as far as it goes. The clause explicity includes "objects constructed on a celestial body". So if you smelted down some gold and made a gold bar, that's an object constructed on a celestial body, and it would belong to you to do with as you see fit with.

    So for an extreme example if one astronaut kills another they would be tried under the laws of the nation that launched the craft.
    Agreed
    And B) that you can't just go to the moon and for example bring back Apollo hardware as souvenirs because its still the property of the US government even though its left on the moon, nor could you legally go and fish someone else's hardware out of the ocean after re-entry.
    This is also correct. However, broadly speaking, if you pick up a rock and put it in a sack, broadly speaking, you've "constructed an object", and it's yours for the keeping. E.g., all those Moon rocks the Apollo astronauts brought back: you'd better believe they are the property of the US of A--not because the US somehow stole them from the "common heritage of mankind", but because the letter of the law outlined in the OST allows the US to retain ownership of "objects constructed on a celestial body".

    BTW, here's the link where I saw where the Bush adminstration was considering withdrawing from the OST, but I can't find any confirmation of Sietzen's statement as of yet.

    http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/1004/102504bd1.htm

  21. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by djellison View Post
    If you're digging up parts of the moon and calling them your own - that's not equality. Moreover, I challenge someone to have 'free access' across your mining infrastructure.
    That is equality, which in "common heritage of mankind" terms, means the same as equal access to the resource. The analogy is to international waters: they are a res communis; no one can claim them even in principle, and everyone has equal access, and the resources there belong to all. But once you go out there and catch a fish, that fish is yours--you don't have to donate it to poor Zimbabweans, unless you want to.

    As for free access to a mine--the analogy is drilling an oil well on public lands. Yes, the land is publically owned and everyone has access to that land, but at the actual drilling location, there is a "safety zone" around that rig where the public is excluded--insurance reasons, you know...

    You want a reference, here is a most excellent one apparently written by a couple of Indians, no less; it pretty much confirms all of what I've been saying about how the OST is to be properly interpreted when it comes private property rights.

    http://www.jiclt.com/index.php/jiclt...download/34/33

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    I think you're making some rather bold interpretations and in doing so, brushing over significant legal grey areas. The correct course of action is to get the legalise worked out, so interpretations ( such as yours, which might be right but could just as well be considered wrong ) are no longer required.

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    None of this " academic discussion "adresses the severely poisonous nature of gold refining and the repercussions of doing this on the moon.
    Imagine contaminating the habitat for crews with cyanide ? This whole concept appears half baked and riddled with problems unforseen by the advocates. I don't know, Tim .

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    Well, there's also a lot of mercury, so they could use the mercury method instead....

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    Quote Originally Posted by djellison View Post
    I think you're making some rather bold interpretations and in doing so, brushing over significant legal grey areas. The correct course of action is to get the legalise worked out, so interpretations ( such as yours, which might be right but could just as well be considered wrong ) are no longer required.
    The only addition to the legalise that I see to be desirable would be the creation of BIG, Columbia-sized EEZ's granted to the first people that can get up there and make effective, permanently manned improvements on the Moon. A) this would provide a stable lega regime for would-be moon miners and protection against claim jumpers. B) this would actually spur some friendly international competition to get up to the Moon and make some things happen because there would only be a very few of the most desirable EEZ's available, so that the snooze-you-lose principle would come into play in a big way.

    Without the disposition of BIG EEZ's, then as the authors above that I linked to say, there is a powerful incentive for the first space power to get up there in a big way to simply give notice to the UN that they intend to withdraw from the OST in one year, and then make a fait accompli out of as big a territory as they think they can physically defend. I'd rather not go down that road....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Platts View Post
    Well, there's also a lot of mercury, so they could use the mercury method instead....
    Because Mercury contamination would only kill the crew slowly? Not a big improvement over the cyanide. And if you avoid contamination there's the small matter of extracting the Mercury to extract the gold added to your shopping list of requirements.

    Oh and of course I thought of one other cost that the US government would have to offset against the 'profit' from this lunar gold mine; the devaluation of it's existing reserves:

    US Gold reserve

    Not to mention all those Us citizens who have put their money into gold in these troubled times, or the value of shares in mining companies involved in terrestrial gold mining.

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    Oh and Warren, have you found a source for that claim about Bush considering withdrawing from the OST?

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    post #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by Garrison View Post
    Oh and of course I thought of one other cost that the US government would have to offset against the 'profit' from this lunar gold mine; the devaluation of it's existing reserves:

    US Gold reserve

    Not to mention all those Us citizens who have put their money into gold in these troubled times, or the value of shares in mining companies involved in terrestrial gold mining.
    Annual production on Planet Earth is in the neighborhood of 2,000 tons per year. So producing 50 to 100 tons per year cvould easily be absorbed by the market without depressing prices due to over
    -supply.

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    Thanks for the mercury tip.

    Assuming that we have 5% water, 1.6% Au and 1.3% Hg ( see my site here: http://moonmapper.wordpress.com/2010...e-lcross-brew/ ), how about this:

    1. Excavate the material.
    2. Grind, if needed and put into the reaction chamber.
    3. Heat it up. Water boils at 100C, Hg boils at 356C, so they can be separated, although that may not be really needed (see below). While at it, recover nitrogen (6.6%).
    4. Take some of the material, mix it with water to produce slurry.
    5. Add the distilled mercury into the slurry, producing Au/Hg amalgam.
    6. Separate the amalgam from the slurry (i.e. using an amalgamation table)
    7. Heat the slurry to recover H2O.
    8. Heat the amalgam to separate Ag and Hg.
    9. Using recovered Hg and H2O, repeat steps 4-8 with the next portion of the regolith.
    10. Cast Au into bars

    I don't know what are the needed regolith:H2O and Hg:Ag (Hg:slurry) ratios, but since both H2O and Hg are recoverable, it only affects processing speed, i.e. how many times you have to repeat the process to process all of the excavated regolith. The good part is that the regolith contains both the gold and everything needed to extract it.

    For faster processing, one could use charged mercury. That requires electrolizing Hg in NaCl solution. H2O is already available, but NaCl would have to be imported.

    As for the power source, a nuclear reactor would be perfect: most energy here is used for heating, so heat output of the reactor can be used directly. That, or go with concentrated solar.

    A primer on amalgamation techniques: http://www.artisanalmining.org/userf...algamation.pdf and some images of equipment: http://www.mine-engineer.com/mining/...c/MercAmal.htm
    Last edited by kamaz; 2010-Dec-11 at 03:10 PM.

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