Helium-3 Mining for Sale to Power Utilities for Electrical Power Production
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As Helium-3 Fusion becomes a major competitor of coal power, new supplies of Helium-3 need to be exploited. High concentrations of Helium-3 exist on the Moon; much greater quantities exist there than exist on Earth. The high value of Helium-3 (roughly $140 mil. per 100 kilograms gross energy value) is enough to offset the cost of establishing a permanent mining settlement on the lunar surface.
Development Strategy and Technical Details
The success of this venture will come down to a company’s ability to reduce costs of launch to the Moon, and habitation on the Moon. Several key historical events and trends point to this being a very good possibility.
With the knowledge gained from NASA’s Apollo Program, it is estimated that by building a new version of the Saturn V with modern technologies could reduce the cost per kilogram to launch to roughly $3000 per kilo. A $5 billion investment in research and manufacturing could provide 5 rockets with a lift capability nearly two times that of the Saturn V, and still maintain the desired mass cost ratio.
A lunar miner would have to be developed, but given the knowledge base of the Earth-bound mining industry, it seems unlikely that a lunar miner’s research and development would cost more than $1 billion. Research has already begun at the University of Wisconsin’s Fusion Technology Institute. Each miner will have a yearly yield of 100 kg of He-3; in order to retrieve this amount, the miner will have to process one square kilometer to a depth of three meters.
It is estimated that in the Sea of Tranquility (Mare Tranquillitatis) there is about $3.5 Trillion worth of Helium-3 (approx. 2500 tonnes).
Optimistically, start up costs would be between $10 and $15 billion. After research and development is completed, the cost of the settlement is reduced dramatically. It would take ten miners to begin turning serious revenue to begin defraying the costs. Eventually, 100 miners or more would be desirable to begin turning a healthy profit. As with most things, the unit cost of launches and miners go down with each additional one.
This venture will lose money in the beginning. It will take time in order to see a return on your investment.
This plan is entirely feasible, and has the potential to make literally trillions of dollars. Think Exxon-Mobil, but on the Moon.
Schmitt, Harrison H.. Return to the Moon. New York, NY: Copernicus Books, 2006.
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