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A global map of Mars’ future mining regions

A global map of Mars' future mining regions
Click for labeled image.

Using data accumulated in the past decade from orbiters, scientists have now published a global map of Mars, showing the regions on the red planet where there are high concentrations of hydrated minerals, minerals formed in the past in conjunction with the presence of water.

The maps to the right show those regions in various colors, indicating different types of minerals.

On Earth, clays form when water interacts with rocks, with different conditions giving rise to different types of clays. For example, clay minerals such as smectite and vermiculite form when relatively small amounts of water interact with the rock and so retain mostly the same chemical elements as the original volcanic rocks. In the case of smectite and vermiculite those elements are iron and magnesium. When the amount of water is relatively high, the rocks can be altered more. Soluble elements tend to be carried away leaving behind aluminium-rich clays such as kaolin.

The big surprise is the prevalence of these minerals. Ten years ago, planetary scientists knew of around 1000 outcrops on Mars. This made them interesting as geological oddities. However, the new map has reversed the situation, revealing hundreds of thousands of such areas in the oldest parts of the planet.

Though this data once again suggests that liquid water once flowed on the surface of Mars, for future colonists it is more important in that it identifies the regions where the most valuable resources will likely be found. For example, most of the colored regions on the map are located in the dry equatorial parts of Mars. However, south of the giant canyon Valles Marineris is a mineral region at about 30 to 40 degrees south latitude, to the northwest of Argyre Basin. This is also a region with a high concentration of glacial features. The two combined will likely make this region very valuable real estate.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

One comment

  • sippin_bourbon

    We have drilled, what, 2 to 3 inches depth max on any part of the Red Planet?

    What we need is a swarm of dedicated prospecting drones that are dedicated to piercing the surface, going deep and getting a good sample to run an on the spot assay.

    Drop 15 to 20 of those around at some targeted areas and lets have a good at what is under the surface. We start finding good stuff, and motivation to get there might go up. Finding the right elements. minerals, metals, etc, could really open the door. But we need to look first.

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