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18 April 2023 3 min read

Dr Jonathon Ralston is an enthusiastic man. And his genuine excitement about the New Mining Frontiers stream he has curated for World Mining Congress 2023 is infectious. The possibilities of what science will emerge as we push into frontier territories, from the deep oceans to the realms of space, are seeing science fiction turning into science fact.

Dr Jonathon Ralston
Dr Jonathon Ralston, CSIRO

“It’s been really exciting, putting together this agenda, curating speakers from around the world who are frontier thinkers, pushing into new mining terrains on earth and into space,” Dr Ralston says.

“It’s fascinating to think about what mines and mining is going to be like 50 or 100 years from now.”

“As we enter new territories on the Moon or even difficult to reach areas on Earth, we’ll need to develop new approaches and new technologies to attain the resources we need in an environmentally sensitive and sustainable way.”

The New Mining Frontiers program is future focussed. The stream will explore emerging and longer-term mining opportunities for space resources, ultradeep operations, undersea exploration and rediscovery back on Earth.

It will provide a forum for visionary thinking to imagine what our industry might look like in the future. It will offer opportunities to explore how science, technology and innovation will offer new pathways, accelerate convergence of sectors, and facilitate safer and more sustainable resource utilisation. 

Off-Earth Mining

A new era of crewed space exploration is opening up. NASA's Artemis program is working on sending humans back to the Moon for the first time in over half a century. And all this is preparation for sending the first human to Mars.

“Sending people to the Moon and Mars brings so many technology challenges. These are inhospitable places for life and will require all the resources to sustain life to be taken along or sourced from these locations.”

“If you think about the logistics of putting powered tech on the Moon you have to consider that it will probably only last for about three weeks before it runs out of battery power,” says Dr Ralston.

“This is just one challenge that needs to be solved,” says Dr Ralston. 

“I'm leading a project with CSIRO’s Space and Astronomy group in an area called in-situ resource utilisation (ISRU) which is about making use of resources on planetary environments.

“CSIRO recently unveiled our lunar test best for developing ISRU technologies that could ultimately be deployed on the Moon,” he says.

The Off-Earth Mining session covers space science exploration, including prospecting, foundation services, extraction, remote operations, and resource production. Speakers will explore how the space and terrestrial mining industries can collectively benefit from technology transfer and processes developed for these dual environments.

“We’ll have speakers from NASA involved with the Mars Perseverance Rover and Australia’s Space Agency.”

“It will be out of this world!”

Artist concept of people on Mars

Pioneering Mining Concepts

The Pioneering Mining Concepts session will explore novel and visionary resource and recovery concepts, methods and technologies.

“Sustainable and environmentally sensitive mining is a leading driver of innovation,” Dr Ralston says.

“Selective mining is one emerging approach which requires new techniques that shift from bulk resource extraction to greater levels of specificity through selective mining advances.

“We’ll also have displays of augmented reality which are showing a concept of operations that were part of our current ISRU work.

“Delegates will be able to hear about new demonstrator processes and systems being developed around the world.”


The Rediscovery session will focus on identification and rehabilitation of underexploited and stranded mineral materials.

“Within this session we’ll also talk about issues related to future resource stewardship and long-term sustainability drivers and opportunities,” says Dr Ralston.

Come and join this look into the future

“Ultimately, we’re bringing together thought leaders from the space and mining industry to identify common interests, shared challenges and capabilities to support greater levels of science and industrial collaboration,” Dr Ralston says.

“For me the challenge is that speakers only have 20 minutes to share their exciting vision, but I could probably listen to them all day.”

The New Mining Frontiers stream is one of 16 themed streams offered at the World Mining Congress 2023 taking place in Brisbane between 26 to 29 June. Secure your registration now.

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