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Asteroid Mining in Missouri?

There is a lot of interest now in mining Asteroids in Space.  As a commercial venture, this may be profitable.  Rare asteroids such as 16 Psyche appear to be rich enough in Platinum-Group metals and other high-value materials that their value might exceed the enormous cost of space mining.  But the problems are obvious. NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, notes that sending a pound of something into orbit costs $10,000 to many tens of thousands of dollars.  The operational difficulties of chasing a live asteroid through space, using robots to chip off 50 to 100 tons of rock, and bringing your catch home to market on Earth present a long list of difficulties and dangers.  There may be a better way.  Mine 'fossil' asteroids already on Earth in Missouri.

Bill Judd looking at a crystal rock.
Geologist William Jud, is a native-born Missourian who has lived and explored this region for precious metals and minerals for many decades.

Lines of empirical and circumstantial evidence are converging toward a conceptual model suggesting that a huge, 10 to 12 miles in diameter and 500 Cubic Miles in size (assuming spherical shape), probably a chondrite, asteroid may have impacted the Precambrian continent Columbia 1,500,000,000 years ago.  The impact structure and much of the Missouri Gravity Low came to rest in Southeast Missouri. Really big Impacters tend to produce wide, essentially flat, craters such as the largest craters visible on the Moon.  Crater diameter tends to be 10 to 12 times the Impactor diameter.


16 Psyche is a very big rock.

Using the Asteroid Conceptual Model to interpret the circular feature 120 miles wide at the south end of the Missouri Gravity Low shown on the Missouri State Gravity map and the 10:1 ratio of crater diameter to impactor diameter gives an estimate of asteroid diameter as 10 - 12 miles.  Assuming a spherical shape and using the equation for radius and volume of a sphere = (4/3 pi) x (radius cubed), the asteroid volume was 500 CUBIC MILES as a first approximation. That's a big rock!

Bill Judd interview for 573 Magazine.
The asteriod plume underplated and melted the lower crust creating rhyolitic magma that erupted as the Saint Francois Volcanic Field.

The enormous asteroid punched a fracture column through the Precambrian Crust and into the underlying asthenosphere, starting a mantle plume.  The plume underplated and melted the lower crust, creating rhyolitic magma that erupted as the Saint Francois Volcanic Field.  That's when asteroid minerals exploration gets difficult.  Rhyolitic magma is so hot that the normal impact-indicating materials, such as shocked quartz, coesite, stishovite, shocked feldspar, shocked zircons, and shatter cones, were reset or melted during a vast volcanic destruction of evidence.  Shocked zircons are tough little crystals and may have survived but could be rare and hard to find, and their parent rocks may be difficult to identify.

Southeast Missouri Iron Rock
Southeast Missouri is an Iron Metallogenic Province.
William Judd explaining an asteroid impact
William's Asteroid Impact Conceptual Model is very convincing.

Southeast Missouri is an Iron Metallogenic Province.  Iron oxide deposits in Precambrian rocks, and numerous filled sinkholes in Cambrian and Ordovician sedimentary host rocks mineralized with iron sulfide and iron sulfide oxidation minerals, are compatible with Iron transfer from a buried asteroid primary source of metals.

William Judd Asteroid interview with 573 Magazine
Rocks can be hundreds of millions years in the making.

William Judd looking at a crystal rock.

crystal rock in hands of Bill Judd
William holding a simple quartz crystal.

Chondrite Asteroids' elemental composition generally is not much different from Gneiss (pronounced "Nice") and Schist and may not generate useful Geophysical anomalies of Gravity and Magnetism. Magnetotellurics may work to locate deep fossil Asteroid fragments if the fragments are metals-rich and are not in the shadow of overlying secondary metallic deposits. Proving the Asteroid Impact Conceptual Model could be as difficult as identifying and removing a single egg from a pan of scrambled eggs.

Missouri State Gravity Map
...Missouri Gravity Low shown on the Missouri State Gravity map...with suspected impact zone circled.

Drilling could provide proof if the asteroid is within drilling depth.  The model is proven when drill core begins returning asteroid rock instead of the surrounding host rock.  Now assume the buried asteroid does exist and is found at shallow enough depth to allow mining. Chondrite asteroids can contain as much as 25% metals.  That could be an entire CUBIC MILE OF METAL in every four cubic miles of buried asteroid.  That's a WHOPPING ENORMOUS amount of metals that include iron, cobalt, nickel, copper, gold, rare earths, platinum group, and others.  A full cubic mile of recoverable metal would probably at least double the presently known global resource of metal ores.

gold, cobalt, platinum rocks

Missouri could hit it big with Gold, Cobalt & Platinum.

When the asteroid hit, much of it exploded upward and outward, scattering large chunks throughout a wide area.  Directly below the impact, asteroid fragments measuring many cubic miles could have been driven into the crater floor and survived as 'fossil' asteroid fragments within the older Precambrian gneiss and schist under the younger Precambrian Volcanic rocks.

rocks on wood table

rocks in old mans hands that are resting on wood table.
William's holding several rock samples.

Maybe they do exist, are shallow and easily mined, rich, and contain gazillions of tons of valuable metals that could reverse our dwindling supply of minerals and provide vital resources for hundreds of years.  If buried mineralized asteroids are such a fantastic potential source of metallic resources, why haven't several been discovered already?  Because it's a new conceptual model.  Nobody has been looking for them.

It's a fun time to be a Minerals Exploration Geologist!

William Jud, Geologist

William holds a Bachelor of Science in Geology from Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy at Rolla, Missouri (now named Missouri University of Science and Technology), and a Masters Degree in Geology from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. William has been married 49 years and has two daughters, six grandkids, and six great-grandkids. Currently, William is Exploration Manager for Legend Minerals at Fredericktown, Missouri, starting regional exploration for Olympic Dam-type, Iron Oxide – Copper – Gold (IOCG) ore deposits, including Rare Earths, Uranium, Chromium, Cobalt and Nickel, in Missouri’s Precambrian rocks.

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