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The Off Earth Mining Forum will focus on a range of topics, including lunar mining.
The Off Earth Mining Forum will focus on a range of topics, including lunar mining.
 











Out of this world symposium considers future of mining

Following audacious plans announced by consortium Planetary Resources last year to mine near-earth asteroids, Australia is set to host its first symposium dedicated to mining in space.
The University of New South Wales’ Faculty of Engineering, in conjunction with the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research, will host the Off Earth Mining Forum at UNSW in Sydney on 20 and 21 February, 2013.

While the conference may seem out of this world to your common garden quarryman, organisers argue its subject matter is not out of the realms of impossibility.

“Terrestrial Mining has been synergised over several thousand years to fit the terrestrial environment, including features such as gravity, atmosphere, power availability, soil conditions and water,” explained Leonhard Bernold, associate professor in the UNSW School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and one of the forum organisers.

“In space, all that will change. Thus, we need to start from scratch and synergise from the ‘bottom up’, something that is extremely difficult, as everything is linked to many factors that will also change ... In space, mining for resources and science are certainly the main drivers.  This will require a collaborative effort drawing on expertise from areas such as space communication, remote controlling, materials processing, power generation, and most important, dust mitigation. All of this has to be developed and tested on Earth with simulants and analogues that ‘resemble’ the lunar surface. At the same time key elements have to be tested on the moon directly to verify that they work in the environment as designed. Australia could play an important role in providing lunar analogues and expertise in mining, power generation, construction, robotic operation and space communication.”

Bernold and UNSW are no strangers to researching the prospects of mining in space and on the moon. He is the supervisor to undergraduate student Aaron Bonanno, from UNSW’s School of Voltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering. 
Bonanno has in the last 12 months published his research on how a lunar soil simulant could be utilised to power a colony on the moon. He demonstrated his theory by employing reject basaltic powder from a Kulnura quarry on the NSW central coast. Bonnano has since addressed the American Society of Civil Engineers on the topic.

The Off Earth Mining Forum will focus on a range of topics, including lunar mining, soil simulants, automation, mining simulation, surveying, the space revolution, innovation systems in space mining, space law implications, space security issues and space heritage. A virtual “galaxy of stars” specialising in astronomy, robotics, engineering, mining, geology, telecommunications, the law and heritage will deliver presentations that explore the viability of mining on the moon and in space.

Notable amongst the presentations will be two suppliers to the quarrying industry. Pieter Prinsloo, of Sandvik Mining and Construction, will speak on mining machine automation. Transmin’s Adrian Boeing will discuss the company’s Rocklogic remotely operated robotic rock breaker system which won an award at the 21st Western Australian Information Technology and Telecommunications Awards last year. Other speakers hail from Rio Tinto, Locata & Leica Geosystems, Optus and NASA.

The forum is offering single day and two-day registrations for companies, academics and students. For further information, including a copy of the conference program, visit www.acser.unsw.edu.au/oemf

Source: UNSW, ACSER


















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