The increasing price of precious metals has prompted mineral prospectors to consider unusual places, including a renewed interest in deep seabed mining and the emergence of an asteroid mining industry.
After decades of dreaming and scheming, companies say they’re finally ready to start mining the bottom of the world’s oceans for valuable minerals. Christopher Werth reports from London on one company’s plans, how environmental scientists view the prospect of digging up the sea floor, and how Howard Hughes and the CIA helped pave the way.
The prospect of a deep sea "gold rush" opening a controversial new frontier for mining on the ocean floor has moved a step closer. The United Nations has published its first plan for managing the extraction of so-called "nodules" - small mineral-rich rocks - from the seabed.
Minerals, such as rare earth metals, are increasingly becoming an important commodity in a resource-constrained world economy. As a result new frontiers both onshore and offshore, to the depths of the ocean, are emerging around the world.
Top Pentagon contractor Lockheed Martin is adapting many of the technologies it developed for the government to commercial ventures at sea, including the external fuel-tank technology used on the Space Shuttle.
Mining's next frontier is proving tricky to navigate. Last week a British company became the latest firm to announce its intention to mine the seabed. However, it is still unclear how deep-sea mining will affect the oceans.
David Cameron has pledged to put Britain at the forefront of a new international seabed mining industry, which he claimed could be worth £40bn to the UK economy over the next 30 years. But the prime minister has chosen an American defence company – Lockheed Martin – to spearhead the drive to collect from the depths of the ocean the copper, nickel and rare earth minerals used in mobile phones and solar panels.