The Moon, a new frontier of mineral resource supply

SEE Lab, Space Economy Evolution Lab

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Asking for the moon is no longer too much. Take SEE Lab-SDA Bocconi’s word for it. SEE Lab has partnered with the Luxembourg Space Agency and the Italian Embassy in Luxemburg to organize a workshop on “Mining the Moon for Profit: A Case Study in Space Resource Utilization”, held on September 28 in Luxembourg.

 

The workshop was obviously about the actual feasibility and economic advantage of exploiting some of our satellite’s natural resources. SEE Lab’s Andrea Sommariva gave an overview of the state of knowledge of available resources on the Moon and their demand; Mattia Pianorsi described a framework for Moon mining: business model and numerical assessment. SEE Lab’s Clelia Iacomino outlined the legal and regulatory perspective in the context of international space law.

 

Space resources are a means, not an end. The development of a vibrant space resource value chain is dependent on constraints on the supply side of resources on Earth, and upon the ability to connect useful resources available in space to tackle problems and limitations of conventional space operations. For instance, water ice for propellant production was identified as a resource for which a potential demand already exists, and substantially reducing the costs of space transportation.

 

After identifying a potential demand for lunar resources, SEE Lab evaluated two business models – private and public- private partnership – through an analysis of net present value (NPV), both deterministic and probabilistic NPV, of the two models. The analysis rejected the private model on the ground of its negative NPV and accepted the public-private partnership, producing a positive NPV subject to a successful government exploration mission.

 

Finally, SEE Lab concluded with an analysis of the policy and legal perspectives on space resource utilization. The study identified several international issues in the Outer Space Treaty and Artemis Accords. Based on these policy issues, the conclusion was that a transnational PPP could be one of the tools to efficiently manage the various actors involved in space mining activities. This transnational PPP would bring multiple benefits for public and private actors such as higher expected government revenues (taxes) and higher employment and growth on Earth, efficiency, return of investment, and implementation of innovations and new business.

 

SDA Bocconi School of Management

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