The Price of Platinum

The monetary value of minerals is generally predicated on how rarely they occur in the natural world (though this value is sometimes faked; diamond companies sit on large stockpiles to artificially inflate rarity in the marketplace). But expand your definition of “natural world” to include the universe, and the formula gets turned upside down. The value of the platinum, iron, nickel and cobalt deposits in an asteroid could top $20 trillion. Cambridge Conference (halfway down page):

John Lewis, who co-directs the Space Engineering Research Center at the University of Arizona at Tucson, studied one C-type asteroid, a 2-km-wide NEO called Amun. He concluded that the monetary value of Amun’s platinum group metals (pgms)-platinum, iridium, osmium, palladium, and so on-is more than US $6 trillion. Amun’s iron and nickel might be worth something on the order of $8 trillion. Add another $6 trillion for Amun’s cobalt deposits, and the asteroid’s value totals a spectacular $20 trillion! … Some M-types, like the unassumingly named 1986 DA, are mountain-sized blends of iron, nickel, and cobalt — in other words, naturally occurring stainless steel. In all, roughly 2000 NEOs [near-earth objects] about the size of 1986 DA are known to exist, with as many as 50 more being discovered each year.

Was thinking today with a cow orker that at those prices, it would probably make financial sense to crash an asteroid into [name your city]. Sell the asteroid, pay back the city for damages, and pocket the diff. But don’t do it too often, or you’ll drive down the price of platinum!

Music: Paul Bley :: Opus 1

One Reply to “The Price of Platinum”

  1. We can only hope we encounter some NEOs which are floating balls of petroleum. Precious metals might be rare, but after oil becomes as rare it will become far more precious.

    I can see a future wherein we find alternatives for using petroleum to shuttle the kids around town. But it’s going to be far more difficult to find alternatives to using plastics.

    (I typed “Paul Bley” into to make a new radio station, and it started playing “Emportez-Moi” by Big Satan, followed by “Smallfry” by Tim Berne.)


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