He mining on the Moon has recently received much interest and was proposed as an incentive for lunar exploration, with 3He as the perfect fuel for nuclear fusion energy without radioactive waste. The Earth has no significant 3He resource. However, the lunar regolith, the upper few meters of loose material on the Moon, appears to contain about 20 ppb of 3He implemented by solar wind over billions of years. The value of 3He can be estimated at around 1 million USD/kg, based on energy content and comparison with nuclear fission reactors and zero-emission coal plants. The corresponding ore value then is 20 USD/t. Both grade and value-per-tonnage data are comparable to marginal diamond mining on Earth, but the specific economics of Moon mining will greatly depend on a drastic reduction of the currently prohibitive transport costs, as well as on support from other space activities.

  • Lehmann B, Mall U (2007) Nuclear power without radioactive waste? The lunar helium-3 perspective. World of Mining - Surface and Underground 59: 156-160

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