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Luxembourg Just Passed A New Asteroid Mining Law (engadget.com) 177

Remember when NASA visited an asteroid with $10 quintillion worth of minerals? Now the lucrative asteroid-mining industry is being pursued by "the European banking hub with a population not much bigger than Albuquerque's," reports Bloomberg, as low-cost reconnaissance missions are already looking "increasingly feasible." An anonymous reader writes: Last week Luxembourg's parliament unanimously passed an asteroid mining law (which goes into effect Tuesday) "that gives companies ownership of what they extract from the celestial bodies..." according to Engadget. "Luxembourg's law is pretty similar to the one President Obama signed back in 2015 in that it gives mining companies the right to keep their loot. Both of them also take advantage of a loophole in the UN's Outer Space Treaty, which states that nations can't claim and occupy the moon and other celestial bodies. They don't give companies ownership of asteroids, after all, only the minerals they extract.. Unlike the U.S. version, though, a company's major stakeholders don't need to be based in Luxembourg to enjoy its protection -- they only need to have an office in country."

Bloomberg reports that the law "could serve as a model for other small countries hoping to explore asteroids -- and to get a piece of the booming space business," since the tiny country is also offering to buy equity stakes in any companies which relocate to Luxembourg. "Luxembourg's success in attracting these companies should show other small countries that space isn't just for superpowers any more... Competition has made space achievable for many more companies, and for the countries that support them."

For the last few years Luxembourg has begun quietly investing in asteroid mining, including a joint venture with "Deep Space Industries" to build a spacecraft to test asteroid-mining technologies -- while another collaboration with Kleos Space is working on "in-space manufacturing technology."
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Luxembourg Just Passed A New Asteroid Mining Law

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  • Bullshit much? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2017 @12:48AM (#54911785)

    "They don't give companies ownership of asteroids, after all, only the minerals they extract.."

    The treaty:
    "outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means OF USE or occupation, or BY ANY OTHER means;"

    Space mining is illegal under the treaty we/they signed up to, if you don't like it, negotiate a new treaty.

    *However*, these companies are NOT about mining, they are about selling shares in stuff that sounds plausible. They are really just stock scam by space mining companies. Luxembourg wants in on it. In effect its staking a claim in the claim staking business.

    • Re:Bullshit much? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DivineKnight ( 3763507 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @12:56AM (#54911801)

      I'm sure that the first country / corporation that can regularly make (monthly, weekly, daily) trips to the asteroid field (any of them) in a self-sustaining and relatively error-free manner will totally care what is written in that {treaty, law, etc.}. I'm also sure that they will do a long-term study of the ramifications of mining our asteroid belts. /s

    • Re:Bullshit much? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:07AM (#54911825)
      Take a look at maritime law for plenty (~600 years) of examples. The whole notion of ship's registry [wikipedia.org] or its flag state [wikipedia.org] tells you where all this is going. Luxembourg is simply making a play to be the Liberia of the future space merchant fleet.
      • +1 insightful. It's just business.

      • Re:Bullshit much? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Monday July 31, 2017 @09:20AM (#54912807)

        "Take a look at maritime law for plenty (~600 years) of examples. The whole notion of ship's registry [wikipedia.org] or its flag state [wikipedia.org] tells you where all this is going. Luxembourg is simply making a play to be the Liberia of the future space merchant fleet."

        Exactly. I', from Luxembourg and even if the country is landlocked, there are more worldwide sailors organized in our unions than any other profession.
        Also SES, the biggest satellite company worldwide is located here. (founded here in 1985)
        It's business and it's going to be big.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The UN has no teeth.

      Whoever gets to an asteroid and manages to mine it and do something useful with the spoils, will be so much technologically advanced, that no-one else will be able to do anything about it.

    • Re:Bullshit much? (Score:5, Informative)

      by stealth_finger ( 1809752 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @04:24AM (#54912135)

      "They don't give companies ownership of asteroids, after all, only the minerals they extract.."

      The treaty: "outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means OF USE or occupation, or BY ANY OTHER means;"

      Space mining is illegal under the treaty we/they signed up to, if you don't like it, negotiate a new treaty.

      I'm sorry, what part of what you posted says mining is illegal under the treaty? If it says that specifically some where else then post that bit. Nothing about that bit you pulled out even says that SpaceRockCo can't land on any asteroid, or body for that matter and say "this is ours, fuck off, we're not a nation"

      • Nothing about that bit you pulled out even says that SpaceRockCo can't land on any asteroid, or body for that matter and say "this is ours, fuck off, we're not a nation"

        Sigh. Yes, yes of course it does. Claiming you're not a nation or not affiliated with a nation doesn't make it so. Either you're still affiliated with a nation, in which case it will be considered appropriation by your nation, or you will be considered to be a nation, and then they'll just send you a rocket, or a rock.

        • Re:Bullshit much? (Score:4, Informative)

          by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @08:45AM (#54912681)

          you will be considered to be a nation,

          In which case, you won't be bound by a Treaty that you haven't signed....

        • "national appropriation by claim of sovereignty"

          So where's the bit that says about "private appropriation by claim of whatever". You can't just be declared a nation by others so they can nuke you and if they do then you're not a party to this treaty so what then?
    • Re:Bullshit much? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by johannesg ( 664142 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @05:14AM (#54912231)

      The point of the outer space treaty is to avoid the situation where one country claims an entire planet or moon or asteroid for themselves, so that other countries no longer have access to its resources. The whole point is cathegorically not to make all of space off-limits to human use, including research and industrial uses.

      In other words, you can go out there and mine asteroids, and you will be able to sell the minerals because you will own them. However, you cannot claim an entire asteroid, so if another country wants to set up shop on the same asteroid, they are free to do so.

      Presumably, future treaties will need to work out how to deal with the inevitable conflict.

    • The Treaty prevents Earthly countries from dividing up space for themselves or from weaponizing it, which was the big fear as it became apparent that the US would be first to place astronauts on the Moon. It does not prevent private companies from exploiting space resources.

      • . . . the treaty prevents SIGNATORIES from dividing up space for themselves. Of course, should a mining base declare itself, oh, as the "High Orbital Republic of CisLunar", for example. . . . they wouldn't be bound. And with tens of billions worth of metals, SOMEONE will recognize them for a small cut of the action. . .

        • Of course, should a mining base declare itself, oh, as the "High Orbital Republic of CisLunar", for example. . . . they wouldn't be bound. And with tens of billions worth of metals, SOMEONE will recognize them for a small cut of the action. . .

          SOMEONE will show up and put them in their places, before they get the rock-throwers up.

      • "The Treaty prevents Earthly countries from dividing up space for themselves or from weaponizing it,"

        That's why we'll call them "communication lasers" when the Kzin come.

    • How funny, you're imagine the highlighted words in a treaty have the common meanings you imagine and so then exclude mining. No, law and especially treaties don't work that way. Mining is fine, actually been done already by a certain point of view.
    • The treaty: "outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means OF USE or occupation, or BY ANY OTHER means;" Space mining is illegal under the treaty we/they signed up to, if you don't like it, negotiate a new treaty.

      I find it funny that you're saying that mining in space is illegal and then you're trying to support it by quoting a treaty that says that mining, a.k.a. "use", does not imply the right for national appropriation.

    • In the US at least, land ownership is entirely different than mineral rights. Both can be owned independently.

      If I'm reading this right, this is just an expanded form of mineral rights, but in space. Speaking of, now you're going to need space mercs to protect your mining operation. Feed them well.

    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

      outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means OF USE or occupation, or BY ANY OTHER means;

      Sorry, but you cannot validly convert a dependent clause into an independent clause by simply ignoring the independent clause.

      Private "appropriation" by the exertion of labor upon natural resources, i.e. Locke's "labor mixing" theory of property, is well known and is not the same as national appropriation where a sovereign entity claims exclusive domain over a natural resource,

    • ""outer space is not subject to national appropriation by..." (list methods)

      NATIONAL.

      The treaty prohibits NATIONAL appropriation.

      There's nothing there that says Exxon or Apple or Google can't land on it and say it's theirs.

      Defending that claim would be more complicated.

      Individual property rights are more or less rooted in the grounds of basic jurisdictional national sovereignty - ie a person can only own land in country X because country X allows it. Essentially, the state 'wrapper' says that the state's m

      • by penandpaper ( 2463226 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @10:22AM (#54913081) Journal

        or fight each other for it.

        Let the space wars commence!

      • by edjs ( 1043612 )

        ""outer space is not subject to national appropriation by..." (list methods)

        NATIONAL.

        The treaty prohibits NATIONAL appropriation.

        There's nothing there that says Exxon or Apple or Google can't land on it and say it's theirs.

        Nothing, except for Article VI:

        Article VI
        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. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other cele

    • The treaty:
      "outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means OF USE or occupation, or BY ANY OTHER means;"

      Space mining is illegal under the treaty we/they signed up to, if you don't like it, negotiate a new treaty.

      Sovereignty is established by your ability to defend, with force, that which you lay claim to.

      Once outer-space mining becomes a thing, piracy will also appear. At that point all the kumbaya BS will give way to the reality of needing to protect, with force, that which people/companies have made the effort to extract for their own profit.

    • i doubt this is a classic european type bullshit much law , check the best functioning countries in europe, luxembourg is about a dot-sized euh dot on the map yet it has held its own since like forever, for some reason i still dont understand why they adopted the euro, i dont think they needed it, UK, poland , i dont know norway, switzerland ... these people dont make rash decisions that dont benefit them. I doubt this will work out bad, eyes on the future. They're basically saying : if you're in the busine
  • The country with the biggest space program on the planet approved. /s

    Does Luxembourg even have any satellites?

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      well, they do have some satellite business. at least money from satellite business. but a company only needs to have an office there to claim advantage. think of the whole country like a big fucking coworking space or sealand or whatever..

      now if a company has an office in some place where it is illegal to do this sort of thing then they would be fucked, despite it being legal in luxemburg.

      all and all it's a pretty meaningless law until it becomes feasible and we can see what other nations declare about it.

    • Yes,it does. It has the most satellites per capita in the world, I think. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      • In a similar vein, Delaware is half the US economy, and Liberia has the world's largest commercial ship fleet.

        Flags of convenience have little to do with actual locations of economic activity. If the rest of the EU had more reasonable tax laws/rates, Luxembourg would have a much smaller economy.

        Whenever the Eurotrash start bitching about America's low tax rates, remember, in Europe, when you get rich, the smart move is to buy Monaco citizenship and get 0% income tax rates.

    • "The country with the biggest space program on the planet approved. /s

      Does Luxembourg even have any satellites?"

      "SES operates more than 50 active and occasional use geostationary communications satellites with names including AMC, Astra, Ciel, NSS, Quetzsat, YahSat and SES,"
      And that's just 1 company.

      They reach 78 million homes in the US alone, a quarter billion in the rest of the world.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org].

  • to space pirates!!!! Sign me up.
  • by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @01:14AM (#54911831)

    If $10 Quintillion worth of asteroid minerals were brought down on Wall Street all at once, it would cause a huge crash in mineral value, an explosion of trading volume, and enough upheaval in the commodities market, one could call it destructive! In fact, it might crater the whole concept of commodities trading! That's why the old dinosaurs that run the finance sector are afraid of asteroid mining, it could spell their doom!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > If $10 Quintillion worth of asteroid minerals were brought down on Wall Street all at once [...]

      Gah, I'd *love* to see that happen. I mean physically, not just financially.

    • If $10 Quintillion worth of asteroid minerals were brought down on Wall Street all at once, it would cause a huge crash in mineral value

      I don't think we have to worry about this happening any time soon. There's a lot of mass * delta-v to deal with.

    • If $10 Quintillion worth of asteroid minerals were brought down on Wall Street all at once, it would cause a huge crash in mineral value, an explosion of trading volume, and enough upheaval in the commodities market, one could call it destructive! In fact, it might crater the whole concept of commodities trading! That's why the old dinosaurs that run the finance sector are afraid of asteroid mining, it could spell their doom!

      None of this would or could happen.

      The figures you see slung about on the "value" of asteroids have a high level of bogosity. They are always arrived at by multiplying the estimated total metal content by the current market value of the metal when available in market-ready form on the surface of the Earth. No one prices Earth based resources this way.

      The resource being estimated for that particular case was the iron-nickel content of the largest asteroid of that type (Type M), which is 16 Psyche, which is i

  • I have it on good authority that Strong Badia (Population: Tire) has already claimed the vast fortunes of space. Luxembourg should have acted faster but you know, I overheard some protesters chanting "Free Tibet!" so maybe they should call China and claim it before someone else. ;)

    • I have it on good authority that Strong Badia (Population: Tire) has already claimed the vast fortunes of space. Luxembourg should have acted faster but you know, I overheard some protesters chanting "Free Tibet!" so maybe they should call China and claim it before someone else. ;)

      Too late, I already nabbed it but you don't want any part in that mess, that's why I'm trying to get rid again but no takers.

    • Strongbad is missing in action. That makes it fair game, unless he decides to show up and reclaim his position.
  • How are they going to extract mineral without a permanent base (even if it is a fully automated one - without any human) to centralize the gathering, energy, reparation communication etc.... ? Occupy does not mean there are human there, occupy in this context means you are setting a base of operation belonging to an agent of a country - even a private person counts.
  • Corporate whore (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2017 @02:51AM (#54911979)

    Luxembourg has been, at least after its deindustrialization (there was steel industry there) the corporate and finance whore in Europe (next to the City of London, that is). Raking in some profit at the detriment of the others.

    And this is the work of... you guess it. Among others, it was Jean Claude Juncker who propelled this transformation. And now he's running around as "Mr. Europa", putting up a serious and concerned face and warning about populisms.

    Reminds me of Emperor Nero, crying over burning Rome, in a fire he himself ordered to set.

  • Sweet (Score:5, Funny)

    by stealth_finger ( 1809752 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @04:20AM (#54912131)
    Sweet, so now all you need to do it make a way to get to the asteroids, make a way to extract materials, make a way to process the materials, make a way to store and transport the materials and then either get them back on earth or build a whole load of facilities in orbit all while having aerosmith playing on repeat.
  • Be careful of the Reavers...
  • The law states that companies own whatever the recover from derelict space vessels; and since outer space is beyond the jurisdiction of national courts, like international waters are, any space vessel is fair game.

    There will be new laws and treaties long before actual space mining starts happening.

    • since outer space is beyond the jurisdiction of national courts, like international waters are, any space vessel is fair game.

      What? Who told you that? Just try it, and see what happens to your little country.

      There will be new laws and treaties long before actual space mining starts happening.

      And there will be dire consequences for small nations that get too big for their britches.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @07:14AM (#54912455)

    So a country that doesn't have a meaningful space program (though does have some space related commerce) passes a law for a hypothetical mining activity that will not take place on a commercial scale during the lifetime of anyone reading this post. Why exactly do we care? I'm as positive about going into space as anyone here but this is simply not news.

    We are ridiculously far from having the technology to mine in space on an economically meaningful scale much less the ability to turn mined minerals into useful products. Not saying it will never happen nor am I saying it's a bad idea but we are a looooong way from this being a meaningful thing to worry about. Right now we have the ability to send a smallish probe and maybe bring back a few core shallow core samples or rocks at ludicrous expense per kg. We don't have any equipment or experience in refining mined materials in zero-G into useful products nor any reasonable near term prospects of getting any. Nor do we have energy sources sufficient to do so in meaningful amounts unless you plan to send a very powerful nuclear fission reactor into space of a design that we've no experience building or maintaining. We could bring back the asteroid in whole or parts and drop it onto Earth's surface which is a terrible idea for a variety of reasons not the least of which is the fact that it is de-facto a WMD.

    Space mining is a cool idea. Let's keep working on it. But perhaps touched with a tinge of realism about the timescale, economics, and technology requirements?

    • We are ridiculously far from having the technology to mine in space on an economically meaningful scale much less the ability to turn mined minerals into useful products. Not saying it will never happen nor am I saying it's a bad idea but we are a looooong way from this being a meaningful thing to worry about.

      I respectfully disagree. I think technologically we are much closer than anyone realizes. Socioeconomically however... we're aeons away. If we had an Apollo program level of push we could be there in a decade, two tops. Thing is, no private enterprise has the capitol to do it, even if there is a huge ROI, the prime mover investment is simply too big to do.

      • We don't have the technology to do it for an acceptable cost, even if we put Apollo levels of effort into it.

        • Define acceptable.
          If you mean prime mover cost recovery in one lifetime? Then I agree, no we're not.

          Of course Apollo costs were mind blowing too, so if you accept that prime mover costs are not required to be repaid, and will be sponged up by government then I think we could get there.

          Mind, this is pie in the sky thinking, as there is *NO* way our current legislative bodies would fund something like this.

      • I respectfully disagree. I think technologically we are much closer than anyone realizes.

        Even if for the sake of argument I agree with you that we have some technology that could do the job sitting on the shelf today it STILL doesn't work for economic reasons. The cost to get into space is WAY too high and is likely to remain so even in spite of the efforts of SpaceX and others. Furthermore it's not enough to merely mine (which we cannot do), you also have to be able to process what you are mining. The only place we can do that at economically meaningful scale currently is back here on earth

  • Not a loophole... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Timothy2.0 ( 4610515 ) on Monday July 31, 2017 @08:07AM (#54912573)
    The supposed "loophole" in the Outer Space Treaty isn't a loophole.

    Article VI states: "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."

    In effect, while a private company can own a spacecraft, it's the state that's responsible for it so, no, Asteroid Mining PLC won't have legal standing to claim their mined goods.
    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

      Ultimately, if a company lands a ship on earth with a cargo bay full of something valuable that they mined from space, someone will buy it. You can't make a treaty that suspends international capitalism, it simply won't work.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is that like Solaren that was supposed to have space-based solar power beaming down by 2016? Oh wait, that never happened either.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/id/30198977/ns/technology_and_science-space/t/pge-makes-deal-space-solar-power/

    "Utility to buy orbit-generated electricity from Solaren in 2016, at no risk"

    No result, either.

    You Space Nutters are like religious madmen. When your predicted fantasy scenario doesn't materialize, you double up on the nonsense.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

  • Back in the days, in my dorm I had a cheaply made table fan with a metal grid. One day, on a whim, I touched the grill with the equally cheap line tester thingie. [wikipedia.org]. I was shocked that I had not been shocked to death by that time, because I used to move the fan and touch the fan all the time it was plugged in. The multimeter showed it had the line voltage of 230 volts (It was in India). The moral of the story was that, the leakage current had very high voltage, but it you try to draw any current, very quic

Disraeli was pretty close: actually, there are Lies, Damn lies, Statistics, Benchmarks, and Delivery dates.

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