If you’re a sci-fi guy or gal, you will enjoy this one. Straight out of a Star Wars movie, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is partnering with NASA to mine an astroid that contains $700 quintillion worth of gold. But what happens to the value of gold when he brings all that to Earth?
With SpaceX, Elon Musk is trying to transport humans to Mars to establish a self-sustainable ecosystem to make humanity a multi-planetary species. This is an extremely expensive endeavor and requires a long-term investment in R&D before any significant ROI.
To sustain the business and attract new investors, Elon is constantly looking for new streams of revenue to fund SpaceX. A new feasible opportunity for Elon and SpaceX is celestial mining. As they continue to develop efficient reusable rockets, they may soon be able to mine massive amounts of Gold in space and bring it back to Earth to sell for profit.
Plentiful quantities of precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum lie within astroids up in space. Theoretically, these metals could be mined and transported back to Earth while the other common ones such as iron could remain to be used for construction in space.
The idea may sound crazy at the moment, but with the increase in space exploration funding, this could become a major revenue source for companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic.
NASA is reportedly working with SpaceX to examine an asteroid called Asteroid 16 Psyche. At current prices, the minerals contained in asteroid 16 Psyche are said to be worth $700 quintillion—enough to give everyone on the planet $93 billion.
While this may sound amazing, the basic laws of economics state that price is a function of relative scarcity. So when we flood the market with gold, it will go from being a rarity to being a common decoration. Or in other words, supply goes up, and price goes down.
Aside from supply and demand, wealth creation doesn’t typically result from an influx of new precious metals. Rather, it comes from the ability to create things that satisfy human desires. Wealth creation happens during a voluntary exchange between people who can benefit from things the other has produced. This exchange may happen either through barter or by using money as a medium of exchange. In this case, both increase wealth, but the use of money drastically increases the number of wealth-creating transactions that may happen.
A steel factory represents wealth because you can use it to make buildings or car parts. A house represents wealth because you can live in it or rent it out. The skills and knowledge in your head are also a form of wealth, even though they are not counted in the official statistics. Even a sandwich is wealth until it goes bad.
So a giant asteroid full of gold won’t add much to real wealth. Yes, the metal would have various industrial applications and make nice jewelry and dental fillings, but it wouldn’t spark a new industrial revolution, or dramatically bring down the cost of goods and services. Flooding the Earth with gold just won’t make human life much better or more comfortable.
Gold doesn’t command high prices solely because it’s rare. Many rare things have little to no market value. Gold has value because it’s rare relative to people’s demand for it. And since Asteroid 16 Psyche would not increase the world’s total demand for gold, there’s no way it could create quadrillions of dollars of new real wealth.
Fox News predicted if Elon Musk were to mine all the gold from Asteroid 16 Psyche and bring it back to earth, it would destroy commodity prices and cause the world’s entire $75.5 trillion economy to collapse.
In a more realistic scenario, gold in the asteroid would collapse the gold industry and obliterate the value of gold as it becomes all too common. It is possible that in the short term, there could be a surge in demand for gold when it arrives in abundance. But not long after it will become as easily available as any other metal which will naturally decrease its value. It’s why we don’t show off our steel necklace as much as our gold one.
Moral of the story: sell all your gold while it still has value before Elon Musk obliterates the value of gold LOL.