A quiet revolution is taking place in the mining industry as space exploration knowledge and innovations contribute to improved productivity, reduced emissions, and better outcomes for workers and communities. This cross-sector collaboration between space and mining is driven by the shared focus on efficiency, reduced carbon emissions, and data-driven decision-making.
Space exploration and resource mining have many commonalities. Both industries prioritize minimizing their footprint, achieving zero-carbon emissions, and relying on extensive data analysis. They also operate in challenging environments, requiring a strong emphasis on employee safety and environmental protection.
The mining sector gains valuable insights from the space industry, utilizing technological advancements and experiences to tackle complex challenges. The advancements in exploration precision, resource planning, mineral detection sensors, in-situ extraction techniques, and safety systems in the mining industry have the potential for application in space exploration.
Moreover, space exploration also benefits from the technological innovations developed by miners on Earth. Lessons learned from responsible and sustainable resource development can enhance the regulatory frameworks for space exploration and development.
The mining industry’s growing complexity and challenges highlight the need for technological integration and novel problem-solving approaches. Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining companies, recognizes the importance of embracing technology and innovative solutions to overcome these challenges.
Significant advancements in post-carbon technologies, such as solar energy and battery storage systems, have been driven by space exploration. Additionally, the systems engineering approach, initially pioneered for space exploration projects, is increasingly adopted by resource companies to improve their project designs and operations.
Recognizing the value of cross-sector collaboration, Australia’s leading mining and oil and gas operators are actively aligning themselves with space-focused businesses, researchers, and industry organizations. This collaboration model facilitates the transfer of technology and expertise between the space and resources sectors, enhancing problem-solving capabilities and knowledge sharing.
The AROSE consortium, established to drive Australia’s space industry growth, serves as an excellent example of this collaboration. The Trailblazer Lunar Rover project, a collaboration between space-capable businesses and resources companies, highlights the shared technology opportunities and collective efforts to tackle tough challenges.
NASA also recognizes the benefits of collaboration between space and mining, evident in their workshops with AROSE and the United States Geological Service. These workshops explore the intersections between the two sectors and pave the way for further collaboration.
To fully unlock the potential of this partnership, mining and space can explore various collaboration opportunities, such as automation and robotics, remote operations, geoscience, satellite communications, artificial intelligence, systems engineering, waste minimization, digital design, user experience, and data analytics.
While mining and space projects have fundamentally different approaches, there is an opportunity for the mining industry to rethink its value chain design and leverage the collaborations with the space sector to drive innovation and sustainability. By embracing the expertise and advancements from space exploration, the mining industry can build the foundations for long-term, sustainable growth while achieving their aggressive emissions reduction targets.
– AROSE Program Director, Michelle Keegan
– Rio Tinto CEO, Jakob Stausholm
– Andrew Dempster, Director at the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research at the University of NSW.