An interesting infographic by 911Metallurgist on the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) website breaks down how three crucial elements found on the Moon could lead to a “Lunar Gold Rush” on Earth’s nearest neighbor.
The three elements – water, Helium3 (He3) and a variety of lanthanides commonly known as Rare Earth Metals (REMs) – can be found in various locations on the Moon. Water is valuable in being able to support and sustain human life on Luna, while Helium3 and Rare Earth Metals hold the potential for creating vast fortunes, according to the post, which claims “The moon holds hundreds of billions of dollars of untapped resources.”
Helium3 mining on the Lunar surface is seen as a means of providing a clean and efficient form of energy that is available in almost limitless abundance on the Moon. China has already made plans to harvest Helium3, which is described as a non-radioactive isotope of helium that may be used in fusion to create safe, clean electric power.
Rare Earth Elements are a primary component in smartphones, computers and medical equipment. According to the infographic, “90% of the world’s REM supply is produced in China,” but China has claimed that its own reserves may only last for 15 to 20 years. Fifteen Rare Earth Metals that are used in manufacturing modern electronic devices, as well as scandium and yttrium, can be found on the Moon according to geological surveys.
So far, China has not publicly announced plans to claim any regions on the Moon where it would begin mining operations, but it could launch its efforts at any time in the next two to five years as part of an ambitious “wealth-creation scheme,” according to the National Review.
Here’s the full infographic on how Moon mining could work: