The Lunar Gold Rush: How Moon Mining Could Work
Humans are already going to extremes to get natural resources. Gold and platinum mines in South Africa go as deep as almost 4 km into the Earth’s crust, which is about twice the depth of the Grand Canyon.
Meanwhile, up high in the Andes are some of the biggest copper and gold operations in the world. In Peru, La Rinconada is the world’s highest permanent settlement at 5,100 m, and it is situated strategically between many artisanal gold deposits in the mountains.
However, there are two frontiers that humans are still exploring in their early stages: the deep sea and spacial bodies such as asteroids, planets, and the moon. Today’s infographic covers the prospect of moon mining.
While we often think of the moon as a pretty barren landscape, it turns out moon mining could take advantage of many natural resources present on the lunar surface.
Water is vital in space for a multitude of reasons, such as for use in human consumption, agriculture, or hydrogen fuel. It’s also cost prohibitive to transport water to space anytime we may need it from earth. Scientists are now confident that the moon has a variety of water sources, including water locked up in minerals, scattered through the broken-up surface, and potentially in blocks or sheets at depth.
Helium-3 is a rare isotope of helium. Currently the United States produces only 8kg of it per year for various purposes. Helium-3 is a sought-after resource for fusion energy and energy research.
Lastly, rare earth elements (REEs) are also at high concentrations on the moon. KREEP (Potassium, REEs, and Phosphorus) is a geochemical mixture of some lunar impact breccia rocks and is expected to be extremely common on the moon. This mix also has other important substances embedded, such as uranium, thorium, fluorine, and chlorine.
If a lunar colony is indeed in our future, moon mining operations may be an important component of it.
Original graphic from: 911 Metallurgist
Ranked: The World’s Largest Copper Producers
Many new technologies critical to the energy transition rely on copper. Here are the world’s largest copper producers.
Visualizing the World’s Largest Copper Producers
Man has relied on copper since prehistoric times. It is a major industrial metal with many applications due to its high ductility, malleability, and electrical conductivity.
Many new technologies critical to fighting climate change, like solar panels and wind turbines, rely on the red metal.
But where does the copper we use come from? Using the U.S. Geological Survey’s data, the above infographic lists the world’s largest copper producing countries in 2021.
The Countries Producing the World’s Copper
Many everyday products depend on minerals, including mobile phones, laptops, homes, and automobiles. Incredibly, every American requires 12 pounds of copper each year to maintain their standard of living.
North, South, and Central America dominate copper production, as these regions collectively host 15 of the 20 largest copper mines.
Chile is the top copper producer in the world, with 27% of global copper production. In addition, the country is home to the two largest mines in the world, Escondida and Collahuasi.
Chile is followed by another South American country, Peru, responsible for 10% of global production.
|Rank||Country||2021E Copper Production (Million tonnes)||Share|
|#5||🇺🇸 United States||1.2||6%|
|🌍 Other countries||2.8||13%|
|🌐 World total||21.0||100%|
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and China share third place, with 8% of global production each. Along with being a top producer, China also consumes 54% of the world’s refined copper.
Copper’s Role in the Green Economy
Technologies critical to the energy transition, such as EVs, batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines require much more copper than conventional fossil fuel based counterparts.
For example, copper usage in EVs is up to four times more than in conventional cars. According to the Copper Alliance, renewable energy systems can require up to 12x more copper compared to traditional energy systems.
|Technology||2020 Installed Capacity (megawatts)||Copper Content (2020, tonnes)||2050p Installed Capacity (megawatts)||Copper Content (2050p, tonnes)|
|Solar PV||126,735 MW||633,675||372,000 MW||1,860,000|
|Onshore Wind||105,015 MW||451,565||202,000 MW||868,600|
|Offshore Wind||6,013 MW||57,725||45,000 MW||432,000|
With these technologies’ rapid and large-scale deployment, copper demand from the energy transition is expected to increase by nearly 600% by 2030.
As the transition to renewable energy and electrification speeds up, so will the pressure for more copper mines to come online.
How Gold Royalties Outperform Gold and Mining Stocks
Gold royalty companies shield investors from inflation’s rising expenses, resulting in stronger returns than gold and gold mining companies.
How Gold Royalties Outperform Gold and Mining Stocks
Gold and gold mining companies have long provided a diverse option for investors looking for gold-backed returns, however royalty companies have quietly been outperforming both.
While inflation’s recent surge has dampened profits for gold mining companies, royalty companies have remained immune thanks to their unique structure, offering stronger returns in both the short and long term.
After Part One of this series sponsored by Gold Royalty explained exactly how gold royalties avoid rising expenses caused by inflation, Part Two showcases the resulting stronger returns royalty companies can offer.
Since the pandemic lows in mid-March of 2020, gold royalty companies have greatly outperformed both gold and gold mining companies, shining especially bright in the past year’s highly inflationary environment.
While gold is up by 9% since the lows, gold mining companies are down by almost 3% over the same time period. On the other hand, gold royalty companies have offered an impressive 33% return for investors.
In the graphic above, you can see how gold royalty and gold mining company returns were closely matched during 2020, but when inflation rose in 2021, royalty companies held strong while mining company returns fell downwards.
|Returns since the pandemic lows |
|Returns of the past four months
(July 8-November 8, 2022)
|Gold Royalty Companies||33.8%||1.7%|
|Gold Mining Companies||-3.0%||-8.6%|
Even over the last four months as gold’s price fell by 1.7%, royalty companies managed to squeeze out a positive 1.7% return while gold mining companies dropped by 8.6%.
Gold Royalty Dividends Compared to Gold Mining Companies
Along with more resilient returns, gold royalty companies also offer significantly more stability than gold mining companies when it comes to dividend payouts.
Gold mining companies have highly volatile dividend payouts that are significantly adjusted depending on gold’s price. While this has provided high dividend payouts when gold’s price increases, it also results in huge dividend cuts when gold’s price falls as seen in the chart below.
Rather than following gold’s price, royalty companies seek to provide growing stability with their dividend payouts, adjusting them so that shareholders are consistently rewarded.
Over the last 10 years, dividend-paying royalty companies have steadily increased their payouts, offering stability even when gold prices fall.
Why Gold Royalty Companies Outperform During Inflation
Gold has provided investors with the stability of a hard monetary asset for centuries, with mining companies offering a riskier high volatility bet on gold-backed cash flows. However, when gold prices fall or inflation increases operational costs, gold mining companies fall significantly more than the precious metal.
Gold royalty companies manage to avoid inflation’s bite or falling gold prices’ crunch on profit margins as they have no exposure to rising operational expenses like wages and energy fuels while also having a much smaller headcount and lower G&A expenses as a result.
Along with avoiding rising expenses, gold royalty companies still retain exposure to mine expansions and exploration, offering just as much upside as mining companies when projects grow.
Gold Royalty offers inflation-resistant gold exposure with a portfolio of royalties on top-tier mines across the Americas. Click here to find out more about Gold Royalty.
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