Luxembourg joins race to conquer space mining

The government of Luxembourg is taking a page out of the U.S. books by officially launching an initiative to promote the mining of asteroids for minerals.

The move comes barely three months after President Barack Obama enacted legislation to foster such ventures.

The tiny European country, which has been studying possible involvement in the sector since 2013, aims to become Europe’s centre for space mining.

Luxembourg is one of the euro zone's wealthiest countries and already has a long-standing space industry and played a significant role in the development of satellite communications a generation ago, including setting up SES, one of the world’s largest satellite services company.

Luxembourg already has a long-standing space industry and has played a significant role in the development of satellite communications.

Revealing the program, Etienne Schneider, the country’s vice-Prime Minister and Minister for the Economy said Luxembourg’s aim was “to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources on lifeless rocks hurling through space, without damaging natural habitats.”

While the authority said the investment budget for space mining ventures hasn't been set, it is believed that the government could fund as much as 45% of research and development projects in the area.

Trillion-dollar industry

Deep Space Industries (DSI), a U.S.-based asteroid mining firm, says the industry is already attracting $2 billion a year in private investment. The Californian firm launched a subsidiary last year in Luxembourg and praised its government for embracing the future.

"There are moments when the world changes. By joining the U.S., private citizens and companies who are moving outwards into space, Luxembourg is making this time in history one of those moments," DSI Chairman Rick Tumlinson said in a statement Wednesday.

The Grand Duchy will also put in place a legal framework to give operators who are based in the country the confidence to go about their business.

READ ALSO: Obama boosts asteroid mining, signs law granting rights to own space riches

Former European Space Agency boss Jean-Jacques Dordain will be one of the country’s advisers on the matter.

Geologists as well as emerging companies, such as Planetary Resources, a firm pioneering the space mining industry, believe asteroids are packed with iron ore, nickel and precious metals at much higher concentrations than those found on Earth, making up a market valued in the trillions of dollars.