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March 7, 2019updated 12 Mar 2019 3:26pm

Russia begins talks with Luxembourg over space mining agreement

Russian deputy prime minister Tatyana Golikova has announced that the country hopes to sign an agreement with Luxembourg to jointly mine minerals in outer space.

By JP Casey

Russian deputy prime minister Tatyana Golikova has announced that the country hopes to sign an agreement with Luxembourg to jointly mine minerals in outer space.

Golikova is currently visiting Luxembourg, and spoke to deputy prime minister and minister for the economy Étienne Schneider about a potential partnership. Luxembourg is one of only two states, along with the US, to have passed laws regarding space mining to establish legal and regulatory frameworks for mining operations beyond Earth. Schneider described the laws, passed in 2017, as “business-friendly [and] innovation-nurturing”.

Countries and companies are aware of the need for a legal framework for mining operations beyond the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bans government from claiming celestial bodies such as the Moon, but is considered vague and outdated by many. Luxembourg has been active in setting such a framework, having previously signed agreements with Japan, Portugal and the UAE concerning mining in space. Russia believes it would be open to a similar agreement.

“They are interested [in cooperation],” said Golikova. “In January, we proposed signing a framework agreement with Luxembourg on cooperation in the use and exploration of outer space. I expect them to confirm this via official channels in the immediate future and we will begin the corresponding talks.”

While technological and logistical difficulties have historically prevented the mining of asteroids, developments have opened up the possibility of mining in outer space. National governments and private companies alike are eager to explore potential mining sites in space.

Asteroid miner Planetary Resources claims that there are over 16,000 near-Earth asteroids that are “easily accessible”, and could be a source of a number of metals, such as iron, cobalt, nickel and platinum. Science Focus claims there is at least $700bn worth of mineral wealth in the asteroid belt alone, so there is considerable potential for mining projects in the future.

“We did not look for direct [interaction with Luxembourg] in the use of space resources and proposed to our colleagues a framework agreement on the use and exploration of outer space,” said Golikova. “We are going within the framework of the working group that will deal with the research component to work precisely on these issues, on how the legal regulation in this sphere can be applicable to Russia.”

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