Luxembourg has adopted a draft law to provide legal security to companies aiming to mine extraterrestrial resources. It's the first European country to do so.
The draft law gives private operators working in space confidence about their rights to the extraterrestrial resources they may extract in the future. Luxembourg is the first European nation to provide legal certainty as to the ownership of minerals, water and other space resources identified in particular on various asteroids. The United States passed a similar law in November 2015. The issue is not without controversy. International treaties call for space mining exploration to be done for the benefit of all countries.
Economy Minister Etienne Schneider said, "The legal framework we put in place is perfectly in line with the Outer Space Treaty, meaning that our law does not suggest to either establish or imply in any way sovereignty over a territory or over a celestial body. Only the appropriation of space resources is addressed in the law." Schneider said the law was due to come into effect in early 2017 and was meant to protect future outer space investments worth billions of dollars. The Luxembourg-initiated Space Resources initiative wants to foster the future mining of materials from near-Earth objects, including minerals and rare earths. Such mining activities in outer space are primarily meant to enable a new kind of space industry whereby spaceships are to use the mined materials as fuel needed on their way to more remote destinations. The government announced in March that it was putting aside $223 million (200 million euros) for a program aimed at bringing back minerals from space. Luxembourg's SES is also one of the world's largest operators of communication satellites.
Two US enterprises, Deep Space Industries (DSI) and Planetary Resources (PR), already have their European headquarters in Luxembourg, with Luxemburg, itself, becoming a shareholder in PR. Asteroids have a high density of precious metals such as platinum or rare earths, which are also needed in a number of key technologies.
"Our aim is to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources on lifeless rocks hurling through space," Schneider said in February.
The Socialist Party’s aim is the free access of all resources.