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Prospecting for Native Metals in Lunar Polar Craters

Warren J. Platts
Groundhog Geoscience, Pinedale, Wyoming, 82941

Dale Boucher
Deltion Innovations Ltd., Sudbury, Ontario, P3A 4R7

G. Randall Gladstone
Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas, 78238

12 December, 2013


One of the more astonishing results of the LCROSS mission were spectra indicating large concentrations of
native precious metals. We hypothesize that the reported metal concentrations represent electrostatic placer
deposits: we theorize that electrostatic dust transport preferentially favors transport of submicron-sized native
metal particles that get trapped in permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) within much smaller subareas where
solar wind wake effects are minimal. We review the LRO LAMP and SSC UV/VIS data and note that several
spectral emission lines in the UV are consistent with the presence of platinum, as well as silver and gold. We
also conduct a numerical simulation that shows that levitation of submicron-sized gold particles is favored
compared with dielectric dust particles. We then develop an ore genesis model that predicts a soil mass
abundance of 0.11% for Au within the ore body trap that is in rough agreement with the estimate of 0.52% for
Au based on the LRO LAMP column density observations. We apply the same methodology to Hg, and predict
a soil mass abundance of 0.53% Hg, compared with an estimated 0.39% Hg based on LRO LAMP column
Greenfield ore grades are determined initially by remote sensing techniques and ore body genesis modeling;
secondly by exploratory drilling and sampling; and finally by close-in ore body delineation (detailed sampling
and analysis) to provide a 3D picture of the ore body of interest. Now that we have in hand a large body of
various remote sensing data sets, and a predictive ore genesis model, we propose to undertake the second step
exploratory drilling. Since the occurrence of electrostatic placer deposits tends to coincide with deposits of
volatiles, the upcoming Resource Prospector Mission (RPM) will be in an ideal position to detect native precious
metals as well as volatiles. However, the Lunar Advanced Volatile Analysis (LAVA) instrument can only
characterize volatiles below 70 AMU, whereas Ag, Pt, Au, and Hg atoms range in mass from 108 to 200 AMU.
Therefore, we propose that an X-Ray Spectrometer System (XSS) be added to the RPM rover as a secondary
scientific payload. The XSS instrument will primarily consist of an X-ray fluorescence detector (XRF) that
offers the right combination of low mass, low power requirements, high speed, and high accuracy (ppm level
for heavy precious metals). Finally, since water derived from PSRs will eventually be intended for human
consumption, the likely high concentration of Hg in PSRs is a potentially grave health hazard, and represents
a huge knowledge gap in our understanding of how to work and live on the lunar surface that is left unaddressed
by the RPM in its present configuration.

= photoelectric efficiency
= dust particle surface potential
a = cross sectional area of dust particle
Ai = area of source terrain i
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Atrap = area of mineral resource trap
Ci = mineral concentration of source terrain i
Core = mineral concentration ore body
di = depth of source terrain i
Di = density of source terrain i
Dore = density of ore body
dtrap = depth of mineral trap
dt = time step
E(z) = electrical field strength as a function of height z
fi = fraction of mineral in source terrain i transported to mineral resource trap
Fe = flux of solar wind electrons
Fi = flux of solar wind electrons
Fsec = flux of secondary emission electrons
Fuv = flux of ultraviolet photons
g = gravitational acceleration of the Moon (1.622 m/s2)
i = source terrain index
J = sum of electrical currents
Je = electrical current due to solar wind electrons
Ji = electrical current due to solar wind ions
Jph = electrical current due to photoemission of electrons
Jsec = electrical current due to secondary emission of electrons
kB = Boltzmanns constant
LS = fraction of transported mineral not lost to space
mtot = total mass of mineral liberated from all source terrains i
q = dust particle charge
Te = solar wind electron thermal velocity temperature
Ti = solar wind ion thermal velocity temperature
Tph = photoelectron thermal velocity temperature
v = velocity of dust particle

I. Introduction

T HE in situ resource potential of volatiles sequestered in permanently shaded regions (PSRs) located at the lunar
poles has long been recognized and was confirmed by the recent LCROSS impact cratering experiment.1 Less
well appreciated are potential native precious metal deposits evidenced by the LCROSS lunar mission. Extremely
prominent emission lines consistent with the presence of silver were observed,2,3 and quantitative estimates of gold
concentrations were on the order of several kilograms per tonne.4,5 To place the latter figure in perspective, we
conducted an informal survey of 71 Canadian gold mining companies: the weighted average of their reported reserves
were less than 1 gram per tonne of ore. Additionally, the lunar gold was found to be at or near the surface with little
to no overburden to be removed, and in a form that would not require crushing of hard rocks. Such rich gold deposits
if they existare entirely unprecedented on Earth.
Gold is one of the few substances to be found within the Solar System that is worth more than per kilogram launch
costs: it is at least conceivable that a lunar gold mining project could eventually prove to be economically feasible.
Moreover, the gold marketunlike the market for PGMsis large enough to withstand infusions of hundreds of
tonnes of new gold per year without significantly affecting the price of gold: the annual production of gold is on the
order of 2,500 tonnes per year, in addition to the estimated ~170,000 tonnes of above ground gold. Furthermore, we
could be approaching peak gold production on Earth because the discovery of new economically viable gold
reserves on Earth is not keeping pace with the rate of exploitation.6 Thus, the main effect of a major lunar gold mining
project would merely be to offset declining production on Earth, rather than deflating the price of gold.
Gold has served to open up several historical frontiers, including California and the Klondike. Given the tantalizing
LCROSS results, it is possible that gold could serve as the catalyst that will open up the lunar frontier. Therefore, we
propose here that the upcoming Resource Prospector Mission (RPM) be upgraded to include the capability to prospect
for precious metals in addition to volatiles.

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II. The LCROSS Results
The evidence that precious metals may be concentrated in lunar polar craters comes mainly from two scientific
instruments: the ultraviolet LAMP sensor on LRO4 that reported on spectra in the far UV from 100 to 200 nm and the
UV/VIS Spectrometer (VSP) onboard the LCROSS Shepherding Spacecraft.2,3 that looked at spectra from about 265.5
nm to 650 nm. These spacecraft examined from two different perspectives the LCROSS ejecta plume caused by
impacting a spent Centaur upper stage within Cabeus Crater, thus providing complementary results.

Of the LAMP results, the most prominent feature was an extremely strong emission band centered at 185 nm that
was attributed primarily to mercury.4,7,8 Least-squares best fits were reported for Hg, Mg, Ca, CO, and H2. In addition,
2 upper limits were listed for 18 other species, including Au. Note, however, that the error bars given for Hg, Mg,
Ca, CO, and H2 were quite tight (<1%). Therefore, the expected values for the other species should be within about a
percent of the reported 2 upper limits.
The soil mass abundance upper limit for Au was initially reported at an incredible 1.6%. 5 A subsequent reanalysis
of the data lowered the calculated line of sight column density within the LAMP field of view for most of the observed
species by a factor of 5.47.6 This in turn lowered the estimated soil concentration to 0.29% (3 ppt). A third analysis of
the data lowered the mass observed with the visible portion of the impact plume by another factor of 1.8 for most
species.8 This study only treated Hg, Mg, Ca, CO, and H2; high confidence was placed in these results because
concentrating mechanisms are known in the case of volatiles, 9,10 or, in the case of Mg, and Ca, the calculated
abundances were not far from the known crustal abundances. 8 However, as we aim to show below, a plausible
concentration mechanismdifferential electrostatic dust transportdoes exist for native precious metals. Applying
the same reanalysis in Ref. 8 to Au, we were able to calculate an estimated 16.3 kg of Au within the LCROSS impact
plume. However, since Ref. 8 also reduced the amount of regolith thought to be the source of the observed species
within the plume from 10,000 kg to 3150 kg,1 the estimated upper limit for Au soil mass abundance actually increased
to 0.52% (~5 ppt).

Of the VSP results, the most prominent spectral feature are two powerful emission lines centered at 328.3 and
338.4 nm.2,3 Silver is the only element with prominent lines at both of those wavelengths. Another strong emission
line at 589 nm was attributed to Na. However, these lines did not appear until the exposure that lasted from 1.1 to 3.1
seconds after the impact. The lines grew in brightness in the next exposure lasting from 3.4-5.4 seconds after impact,
and had mostly died away by the exposure from 16.3-18.3 seconds after impact.
Ref 2. found the delay to be enigmatic, but ascribed it either as a result of surface depletion of Na (and Ag) atoms
or else these atoms were overlain by a layer of volatiles that shielded the Na and Ag from first-contact heating.
However, the upward bulk velocity of the initial high-angle cloud is relatively well-constrained by observations: on
the order of 3.5 km/s.7 Such velocities require extremely high kinetic energies. The observed high-angle plume2 is
made possible by the fact that the Centaur was a hollow projectile: the impact causes the projectile to immediately
fail, with parts splaying off to the side, thus allowing material directly underneath the impact site to eject upward.
Extrapolations from laboratory experiments where hollow aluminum projectiles with velocities of 2.5 km/s (the
same velocity as the Centaur impactor) were fired at sand and pumice targets indicate that only material ejected within
about the first 0.05% of the total crater formation time (1.3 s)i.e., about 0.65 10-3 swould have enough energy
to achieve the required velocities.11 The material ejected would have to come from an area with a diameter on the
order of a projectile diameter. The Centaur is cylindrically shaped, with a 12.7 m length and a 3m diameter. However,
most of the mass of the 2300 kg Centaur is concentrated in the spherical, stainless steel oxidizer tank. Thus, for
practical purposes, the impactor can be considered to be a sphere with a diameter of 3m. The cross section is 7 m2. If
the mass of the ejecta plume is 3150 kg,1 and the density of the regolith is assumed to be 1800 kg/m3,8 then the
excavated volume of high-energy regolith is ~1.75 m3, indicating an average depth of only 0.25 m.
Note that the kinetic energy of a high-angle ejecta plume with a mass of 3150 kg and velocity of 3.5 km/s (19
109 J) is much higher than the kinetic energy of the 2300 kg Centaur traveling at 2.5 km/s (7.2 109 J). Since the
upward velocity of the ejecta plume is better constrained by observations compared to the plume mass estimate, it
could be the case that the estimated ejecta plume mass of 3150 kg is an overestimate. Alternatively, adsorbed
monatomic hydrogen deposited by the solar wind might be relatively non-reactive at the extreme cold temperatures
within PSRs. Such monatomic H might then be detonated upon impact of the Centaur, considerably relieving the
energy budget.8 Assuming an enthalpy of formation of 436 kJ/mol for H2, approximately 56 kg of monatomic H
about half the hydrogen reported in Ref. 8would have to be detonated to relieve the energy budget (this calculation

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does not take into account the heat required to vaporize the observed constituents). This scenario would be consistent
with both the estimated high-angle plume mass and velocity, as well as with the rather surprising fact that only trace
amounts of monatomic H were observed by LRO LAMP. 4
Either way, the observed silver (and gold) must have been derived from quite close to the surface at the very initial
stage of the impact. How, then, to explain the ~1 second delay from the moment of impact to the appearance of the
Ag lines? During the initial phase post-impact, the volatile gas would be dense enough to be collisional; this phase
lasted for about 1 second, until the high-angle ejecta cloud attained a diameter of ~1 km, after which the gas
transitioned into a collisionless phase where practically all particles translocate ballistically. 8 The temperature of the
cloud at the point of the phase transition is estimated to be on the order of 1000 K.8 Presumably, the temperatures
during the collisional phase were much higher. Ags melting point is 962 K. During the collisional phase, any silver
grains would have melted, but collisions with volatile molecules within the clouds atmosphere would have
prevented rapid evaporation of the molten droplets. At the transition into the collisionless phase after about 1 s, the
molten droplets would have been exposed directly exposed to the vacuum of space and flashed into vapor, thus
explaining the sudden appearance of Ag lines in the 1.1-3.1 s VSP exposure.

C. Platinum
If it is the case that gold and silver are concentrated in PSRs, one might expect platinum to be concentrated as well.
However, the initial group of papers did not report the presence of Pt. 1-5 Nevertheless, Ref. 3 (Table S-1) does list
several emission lines brighter than background levels that are consistent with the presence of Pt within the ejecta
plume. Whereas the presence of these lines do not constitute definitive proof of the presence of Pt, the lines suggest
that the presence of Pt within the high-angle ejecta plume observed by SSC VSP cannot be ruled out.
Table 1. lists several observed spectral emission lines
that are evident within the SSC VPS spectrum (Ref. 3s Table 1. Comparison of Pt Emission Lines
Table S-1 and Fig. S1). Lines at 266, 271, 283, 289, and 290
nm were specifically identified as exceeding a 2 variation Observed Platinum
measured by subtracting successive 2-second pre-impact Spectral Line (nm) Emission Line (nm)
exposures; all of these peaks correspond to expected Pt
lines. Note that the observed line centered at 271is a single not significant 264.7 left edge of spectra
wide peak stretching from 270 to 272 nm, and is thus 266 266 CS
consistent with the cluster of 3 Pt lines from 270.2 to 271.9 270.2 single wide
nm. Lines at about 264.7, 273.4 visibly exceed the 0.0-0.8 s
exposure, but were not considered to be significant the 2
level.3 Smaller peaks are evident at 300 and 330 nm: these
271 270.6
} peak centered
on 271 nm
were considered by Ref. 3 to be artifacts of either the solar not significant 273.4
or pre-impact spectra, although they are not inconsistent 283 283 marked on spectra
with the existence of Pt in the ejecta cloud. Indeed, the only 289 289.4 CO2+
Pt lines that were expected but not observed were the 293 290 289.8 OH
and 306.5 nm lines. no peak 293
The volatiles CS, CO2+, and OH were suggested as likely solar spectra 299.8
sources for the observed lines at 266, 289, and 290 nm,
no peak 306.5
respectively. Of these, the line at 290 nm attributed to OH
does not become prominent until the 1.1-3.1 s exposure, solar spectra 330.2
which is arguably more consistent with molten droplets undergoing a phase transition at the end of the collisional
gaseous phase. The peak at 289 becomes apparent in the 0.0-0.8 s exposure, which is consistent with early volatization
of CO2+, but the line becomes much more prominent beginning with the 1.1-3.1 s exposure, which is also consistent
with the presence of Pt vapor forming at the collisional-collisionless phase transition. The peak at 266 attributed to
CS is very inconsistent. Although it appears early, it is best developed at the 16.3-18.3 s exposure. An even more
powerful emission line that could confirm the presence of CS is expected at 257.5 nm;12 however, spectra from 200
nm to 264 nm were not sampled in the LCROSS mission.

D. Possible Contamination by the Centaur

It could be objected that the anomalously high metal readings are the result of contamination from the Centaur.
Since the primary mission of LCROSS was to search for water, the potential for contamination was treated at length
with respect to volatiles; great pains were taken to vent all fuel, and all other potential sources of volatiles were duly

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accounted for.13,14 However, no inventory for silver or gold was provided by the manufacturer.* Nevertheless, gold
plating was likely used to prevent hydrogen embrittlement of the rocket nozzle, and silver plating of the LO2 pump
was likely used to prevent ignition caused by contact with the impeller. 15 Since the primary use of Au and Ag is
plating, however, the masses involved would not be enough to cause significant contamination. Similarly, Ref. 2
addressed the possibility of contamination and could not identify a source of Ag in the Centaur sufficient to produce
the observed emission lines. Finally, experiments with spherical, hollow projectiles demonstrate that as the projectile
fails, the parts splay off to the side, allowing material from the impact site to eject upwards. 11 Thus, it is unlikely that
significant material from the Centaur was incorporated into the high-energy, high-angle impact plume.

III. Ore Genesis Model

The process of ore genesis requires three components: a source, a mode of transport, and a trap. If the LCROSS
results are to be believed, a trap has been identified. Although the lunar crustal abundance of Au is tiny (on the order
of ~5 ppb), if integrated over the entire lunar surface, the amount gold is potentially huge if it can be transported to
the trap. Moreover, it is a general principle of geology that practically any transport mechanism short of violent impact
cratering will result in the separation and subsequent concentration of various constituents based on differences in
their mineralogical properties. Electrostatic dust transport is a phenomenon unique to the Moon and other airless
celestial bodies. Since native metal dust differs from ordinary regolith dust particles in their electrostatic properties,
we should expect that the electrostatic environment will cause differential transport of dust particles. Moreover, the
separation of minerals based on their differing electrostatic properties is a major industrial process on Earth, with a
well-developed theory.16-18 Indeed, Thomas Edison patented the worlds first electrostatic separator for the purpose of
harvesting gold dust from desert paleoplacer deposits in Arizona.19 We should not be surprised to find an analogous
separation and transport process taking place on the Moon causing the formation of lunar electrostatic placer deposits.

A. Numerical Simulation
There are several properties that distinguish precious metal dust from ordinary, dielectric regolith, such as
conductivity, density, work function, capacitance, photoelectric efficiency. To test the hypothesis that native precious
metal dust particles on the Moon are preferentially transported relative to regolith particles, we conducted a simple
numerical simulation that examined the effect of photoelectric efficiency and density of submicron-sized gold and
olivine dust particles.
The electrostatic environmental parameters were derived from a particle in cell (PIC) simulation that attempted to
estimate conditions simulating lunar noon, with the Sun directly overhead.20 During the lunar day, since there is no
protective atmosphere, the environment is dominated by UV radiation that causes photoelectric emission of electrons
from the lunar surface, resulting in a net positive charge on the lunar surface. The other main influences are collisions
with solar wind electrons and ions. Also, collisions with electrons can result in secondary emission of electrons. Thus,
the net current through a given particle is simply the sum of these currents:

= + + + (1)

where J is the net current, and Jph, Je, Ji, and Jsec are the current due to photoemission of electrons, incoming solar
wind electrons, incoming solar wind ions, and the secondary emission of electrons, respectively.21,22 Since
photoemission causes positive charging of the dust grain, it will tend to attract more solar wind electrons, while
repelling solar wind ions, until a dynamic equilibrium is reached, and the net current flow goes to zero. We do not
model the effect of secondary electron emissions because their effect during the lunar day is negligible.
The current due to photoelectric emission is a function of the particles photoelectric efficiency , surface potential
, cross sectional area a, respectively, and the UV flux Fuv:23

= exp(/ ) (2)

According to Bernard Kutter of the United Launch Alliance, There are multiple sources of gold and silver on
Centaur: MLI on the forward bulkhead, aft bulkhead, and component shields. Avionics includes some gold and silver,
and parts of the propulsion include silver. Personal communication, email dated 5 December, 2013.

Anthony Colaprete, personal communication, email dated 2 December, 2013.

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where > 0, Tph is the average temperature of the photoemitted electrons, and kB is Boltzmanns constant. For our
simulation we assumed particle diameters of 0.04 m, a UV flux of 10 15 photons/m2, and that kBTph = 2 eV, while
allowing to vary.
The current due to solar wind ions and electrons (and recaptured photoelectric electrons) is a function of the
ion/electron flux, and the surface potential and size of the dust particle:

= exp(/ ) (3)

= (1 + / ) (4)

where kBTie was set a 10 eV. The electron and ion fluxes are a function of the solar wind bulk velocity (400 km/s) and
density. The density of ions was assumed to be constant throughout (12 106 ions/m3) due to their higher mass. As
for electrons, we modeled both solar wind electrons and photoemitted electrons. Electron density is a function of
height.20 The solar wind electron density actually declines close to the surface (we assume 3 106 e-/m3 near the
surface) because of Debye shielding (Debye length ~1 m); conversely, photoemitted electrons (kBTe = 2 eV) are most
dense at the surface (~108 e-/m3), and decline to insignificance at about 10 m.
Test dust particles were then placed in this environment and allowed to charge and move in 1-dimension (z)
according to the differential equation:

/ = () (5)

where v and q are the velocity and charge, respectively, of the simulated dust particle, and E(z) is the strength of the
electrical field as a function of z (3 V/m below the Debye length of 1 m, then declining to 0 V/m at z > 10 m), and g
is the lunar gravity (1.622 m/s2).
A rule of thumb when modeling dust grain charging is that the photoelectric efficiency (i.e., the chance that an
incident UV photon will cause an electron to photoemit) is 1.0 for conductors, and 0.1 for dielectrics.23,24 Our initial
runs used these values, assuming spherical particles with diameters of 0.04 m and densities of 19320 kg/m3 (gold)
and 3250 kg/m3 (olivine). The results for olivine effectively replicated the results of Ref. 20. The gold particles
behaved similarly, achieving a dynamic equilibratory height of about 9 m within minutes.
However, careful empirical studies on submicron-sized, analogs25 and actual Apollo 17 lunar dust particles26 from
show that the photoelectric efficiency is extremely size dependent at the small sizes pretended in our simulation and
in Ref. 20, with values for ranging from 10-2 to 10-5. When these empirically derived values for were simulated,
the olivine particles could not levitate. Indeed, there was a sharp cutoff threshold at about 0.06 for olivine (Fig. 1).
The levitation cutoff for gold in our simulation was slightly higher, due to its higher density ( 0.07), but well

= 0.2
Height (meters)

= 0.1
= 0.07
= 0.064
= 0.062
0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400
Time (seconds)
Figure 1. Levitation Height as a Function of Photoelectric Efficiency. The levitation curves are for an ordinary regolith dust
particle (diameter 0.04 m) with a density of olivine (3250 kg/m3). Levitation ceased at = 0.06.
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within published empirical estimates of gold photoelectric efficiency.27-29 Indeed, there is some evidence that the
photoelectric efficiency of gold and silver actually increase with decreasing size.30 These results suggest that the
population of levitated dust grains on the Moon could be enriched in native metals. The recently launched Lunar
Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) carries a UV/VIS spectrometer (UVS) that is derived from the
VSP that was utilized during the LCROSS mission. Detection of emission lines associated with Ag and Au and
possibly other metals (e.g., Zn) should be expected.

Empirical Evidence
Just as rivers deposit gold dust in areas where
hydraulic forces are at a minimum, differential
electrostatic dust transport should deposit gold dust in
areas where electrostatic forces are at a minimum
i.e., in areas away from the effects of UV radiation and
the solar wind. However, if precious metals are getting
concentrated in certain areas, the principle of
conservation of matter requires that such metals be
depleted in their source areas.
Samples of Apollo 12 pristine rocks averaged ~5.5
ppb Au (range: 3.9 to 8.2 ppb, excluding one sample
of impact melt that was 22.4 ppb Au),31 whereas, an
Apollo 12 core sample of regolith averaged ~2 ppb
Au,32 indicating an apparent 60% depletion in the
regolith compared to nearby source rocks. As source
rocks get pulverized by micrometeor bombardment, Figure 2. Apollo 12 Core Sample. High work function of Au causes
native precious metal dust grains will become charged triboelectric negative charging, attracting Au grains toward the
through interaction with UV radiation and the solar positively charged surface.
wind. Because of their extraordinary electrostatic properties, gold and silver dust grains will tend to levitate
preferentially, relative to ordinary regolith dust particles. Once accelerated, such native metal particles will follow
ballistic trajectories. This process will repeat itself until the particle lands in a place where electrostatic forces are no
longer strong enough to cause levitation.
The abundance profile of the Apollo 12 core (Fig. 2) is consistent with preferential electrostatic dust transport. The
uppermost layer is somewhat concentrated (2.5 ppb), which is consistent with a population of dust grains moving
about the surface of the Moon via electrostatic dust transport. However, the next sample at ~13 cm is quite depleted
(0.63 ppb). At a depth of ~19 cm, the concentration increases to 1.7 ppb. Then, starting ~21 cm, gold concentration
evidently plateaus at ~2 ppb.32
Micrometeorite gardening turning over the top few centimeters of regolith could cause the depleted layer at 13 cm.
Alternatively, since Au has a high electronic work function relative to the sorts of minerals that compose the regolith, 33
gold particles will tend to accept electrons from neighboring mineral grains, thus causing native gold (and silver) dust
to become negatively charged. Meanwhile, in addition to the photoelectric charging of the surface described in the
previous section, high-energy ions, particularly during solar particle events (SPEs) and cosmic rays, will easily
penetrate down to a depth of 10 cm or more, thus positively charging the regolith subsoil. Consequently, negatively
charged gold particles will tend, over time, to migrate upwards, relative to neighboring regolith particles (Fig. 2).

Estimate of Ore Concentrations

In his paper entitled Dont Drink the Water, George Reed 10 developed a methodology for estimating the
concentration of mercury in PSRs, based its evident depletion elsewhere on the Moon. The total mass (mtot) of a
given species available for concentration and sequestration within a lunar ore body is given by:

= (6)

There is a typographical error in Reeds article that is still being propagated in the literature (e.g., Ref. 8): on page
810, the sentence reads, the cold trap/total area is ~10-4; so that 1.9 1011 g of Hg into 1.0 m deep 3.7 1013 cm2 will
contain 0.5 10-2 g Hg/cc. The last phrase should read, will contain 0.5 10-4 Hg/cc. Assuming a PSR density of 1800
kg/m3 (Ref. 8), then the Hg soil mass abundance per Reeds calculation is 0.0028%, rather than 0.28%.
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where Ai is the area of a given source terrain, di is the depth of regolith, Di is the density of the regolith, Ci is the
original mass abundance, and fi is the fraction of the species liberated, and LS is the fraction of the liberated element
that is not lost to space prior to concentration and sequestration. Thus, the expected concentration of the ore body
(Core) is simply:

= / (7)

where Dore, is the density of the ore, and dtrap and Atrap are the depth and area of the trap.
In our initial estimate, we assume a crustal abundance of 5 ppb for the entire Moon, and the liberated fraction f is
60% (density and depth of regolith of 2000 kg/m3 and 10 m, respectively, throughout). Since gold dust particles consist
of numerous atoms, we presume that negligible numbers of particles are accelerated past the escape velocity of the
Moon (~2.5 km/s), and lost to space (LS = 1). The total area of the Moon is 38 106 km2. Given these assumptions,
the total amount of Au available to form deposits would be ~2.3 109 kg.
In Reeds original analysis, the area of the ore body was thought to coincide with the extent of the PSRs.10
However, solar wind wake effects probably cause dust erosion and volatile sputtering within the vast majority of the
PSRs.34-36 Because of the difference in thermal velocity of solar wind electrons versus ions, as the plasma passes
horizontally over a shaded crater, an electron cloud will tend to form behind the immediate leeward side of the crater
wall; meanwhile, the heavier ions will pass overhead, forming an ambipolar electrical field, and causing the lunar
surface to charge negatively this time, with surface potentials measured in the hundreds of V.36 In this environment,
secondary electron emission becomes important. The buildup of strong negative surface charging then deflects
downward the positively charged stream of ions into the downwind section of the PSR. Depending on the local
circumstances, these impinging ions can cause sputtering and subsequent erosion of volatiles, 34 or, at times, the ion
beam could become a net source of hydrogen that can produce more water or hydroxyls through a number of
processes.35 As the sun apparently moves around the Moon over the course of a lunation, however, the electrostatic
environment at any given location will vary accordinglya zone of deposition can turn into a zone of erosion within
a lunation.34
It is likely that the extreme surface potentials cause vertical dust levitation, providing a current of last resort,
thus closing the circuit. Although a full numerical simulation contrasting the relative ability of gold versus dielectric
dust grains during the lunar night is beyond the scope of the present study, the relatively high work function of gold
should entail stronger negative charging, thus leading to preferential dust levitation and transport.
Zones that trap native metal dust should occur in areas where electrostatic forces are at an absolute minimum.
These will tend to be small, but deep, craters within craters, 20 km diameter, similar to the LCROSS impact site. 34
A proxy for estimating the area of minimal wake activity are the anomalous craters identified by the Chandrayaan-1
Mini-SAR and LRO Mini-RF instruments.37-39 These craters reflect a high ratio of same-sense to opposite sense
circularly polarized radar (CPR) within their crater rims, whereas the immediate vicinity beyond the crater rims have
low CPRs. These craters are interpreted as having significant buildups of relatively clean ice, 39 because whereas
blocky, rough terrain can also cause high CPR measurements, as is typical for relatively young craters, such craters
should have high CPR values both within and without the crater boundary.
All of these anomalous craters are 20 km or less in diameter (with the exception of Shackleton at 21 km) and tend
to be craters within much larger craters (e.g., Rozhdestvensky N, 84.0N, 202.6E). In addition, the anomalous craters
are further distinguished from the rest of the PSRs by tending to have relatively high albedos in the far UV40 (e.g.,
Shackleton, Whipple and Hermite A, compared with the other craters examined in Ref. 40, Tables 2-3), which could
be consistent with the existence of buildups of relatively thick ice (on the order of ~2-3 m thick).37
The total area of anomalous, high-CPR regions is a small fraction of the total PSR area now estimated to be 31,059
km2 in extent.41 If the expected volume of ice in the south is the same as the north (600 106 m3 each),39 and the depth
of the ice is ~2 m, then the lateral extent of the anomalous ice deposits is on the order of 600 km2. Using this figure as
a proxy for the region of minimal solar wind wake effects (Atrap), and applying Eq. 7 (Dore = 1800 kg/m3, dtrap = 10
m), we calculate an expected soil abundance of 0.021% (210 ppm) Au. However, if it is the case that the lunar farside
highlands were formed by accretion of a companion moon, 42 the farside highlands could represent a source rock
substantially enriched in Au. If, for some reason, the impactor had the same bulk composition as the Earth, the Ci (Eq.
6) for the farside highlands would be as high as ~290 ppb Au43a concentration about the same as that of enstatite
chondrites.44,45 If the companion moon carapace comprises 1/3 of the Moons area, then the expected mass abundance
within the ore body (Core) would be 0.41%quite close to the soil mass abundance implied by applying Ref. 8s
analysis to the original Au data set (0.52%). More likely, the impactor would have a bulk composition more similar
to the Moons, implying a Ci of ~72 ppb Au,43 that in turn yields an expected Core of 0.11% (1.1 ppt). We provide a
similar analysis for Hg in the Appendix.
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Prospecting for Native Metals in Permanently Shaded Polar Craters
The Moon represents the ultimate greenfield exploration project. As such, lunar mineral exploration will remain
highly conceptual and heavily dependent upon the predictive power of ore genesis modeling.

Site Selection
The primary determinant of a quality electrostatic placer deposit is a trap within a PSR that lacks all solar wind
wake effects. Happily, these areas also tend to coincide with the best areas for finding high concentrations of volatiles.
Extreme cold and topographically small but deep craters within craters favor the genesis of native metal (and volatile)
ore bodies. Once a short list is compiled, a particle in cell (PIC) numerical simulation for each site should be conducted
similar to those that have been constructed for Shoemaker crater.34 Although areas with minimal electrostatic activity
favor the formation of electrostatic placer deposits, the lack of a plasma ground also presents a serious engineering
challenge as well, as will be discussed below.46

Metal Detection
The current configuration of the RPM includes a mass spectrometer, the Lunar Advanced Volatile Analysis
(LAVA) instrument that can determine elemental abundances. However, its resolution is limited to volatile species
of less than 70 AMU,47 whereas the atomic weights of Ag, Pt, Au, and Hg range from 107 to 200 AMU. Although
several types of electronic sensors are used in the gold mining industry, X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy is the
preferred method when very accurate data on the elemental composition of particles are required. 48 In addition, XRF
sensors have a venerable flight history in space exploration going back to the earliest Mars and Venus landers.
The baseline sampling protocol for RPM is to drill 1 m cores that are 1.6 cm in diameter. After extraction, the core
is deposited in the Sample Transfer Receptacle (STR); the STR will then section the core into 12.5 cm lengths. These
core sections will then be transferred to the Oxygen and Volatile Extraction Node (OVEN) that will heat multiple
samples to 423 K, and at least one sample to 1173 K, in order to bake out volatiles present in the regolith core samples.
The resultant vapors will then be analyzed by the LAVA mass spectrometer. However, due to tight time constraints
upon RPM, volatile analysis by LAVA will focus on the ~15 cm to 1 m depths because it is thought that the uppermost
layer will tend to be depleted in the lighter volatiles. Thus, the discarded upper section of the core samples could be
made available to an XRF sensor. Any native metal dust particles or heavy volatiles like Hg and Na, should be less
susceptible volatization due to temperature variations, and these species are expected to be present in the uppermost
layer. Alternatively, the XRF sensor could be installed on the RPM drill foot clamp as that would allow the XRF to
work in conjunction with the Near Infrared Volatile Spectrometer Subsystem (NIRVSS) and examine both the surface
and the drill cuttings pile. The drill cuttings pile would allow analysis of deeper samples, but the sample depth would
be less constrained than with actual core samples.
The Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) is currently deployed on the Mars Science Lab (MSL). APXS
was funded by the Canadian Space Agency, and the University of Guelph provided scientific direction during the
development process and leads the scientific operation of this instrument. However, the APXS is probably not the best
choice for incorporation into RPM for at least two reasons: (1) the RPM drill will be recovering core samples of 1.6
cm diameter,47 whereas the APXS sensor is designed to look at samples >1.7 cm; 49 (2), more importantly, the RPM
mission will be extremely pressed for time,46 and the APXS requires 2 to 3 hours to make accurate measurements of
trace elements.49 In addition, unconsolidated regolith does not lend itself well to detailed analysis by the APXS.
The German designed Mssbauer/XRF MIMOS instrument underwent successful field trials on the Mauna Kea
Volcano in Hawaii.50 However, its tilt-based deployment design limits its sample targets to horizontal features, 50 and
would have to be modified to examine the expected core samples. And again, more importantly, the integration times
on the order of 30 to 90 minutes50 will not fit into the compressed schedule the RPM is forced to operate under.
Probably the best option would be to adapt some of the latest handheld technology, such as that being developed
by companies such as Niton and Olympus for use in mining, mud logging, and industrial applications. An Olympus
Delta Innov-X handheld XRF device has been tested on actual Apollo samples, including soils, with accurate
results.51,52 In addition to their extremely compact size, low mass (~1 kg), and low-power requirements (~4 W), these
XRF sensors can deliver accurate results within one minute. A one minute integration can detect concentrations of a
few ppm of heavy metals such as Pt, Au, and Hg, and can effectively measure the concentrations of light elements
down to Mg. Certainly, upgrading such handheld technology to flight-ready, TRL 10 status will be a difficult and

Greenfield projects are defined as virgin territory, in contrast to brownfield projects that are constrained by
information gleaned from previous, nearby mining projects.
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relatively expensive engineering challenge; however, it is probably the only option that can fit into the compact spatial
and temporal constraints of RPM.

Engineering Challenges
The actual operations of native metal prospecting within permanently shadowed, lunar polar craters will involve
some rather peculiar engineering challenges.

1. Extreme Cold and Lack of Sunlight

The cold temperatures within the PSRs are well known. The Deltion drilling system developed for the RPM
activity is well evolved and considers the many environmental factors present in PSRs such as the extreme regolith
temperature, lack of solar radiation, low power flux for solar power cells, cosmic radiation effects and harsh vacuum.
These factors add risk to the sample capture techniques used. Thermal management and Electromagnetic Immunity
of the avionic are under development for the drill, rover, LAVA and Near Infrared Spectrometer systems. This know-
how can be readily ported to the selected XRF sensor as an aid to design. It is conceivable that the XRF sensor be
installed on the drill deployment module near the foot clamp to ensure proximity to the surface during drill operations.

2. Electrostatic Environment
The very forcesor rather, the lack of such forcesthat allow the genesis of electrostatic placer ores represent a
potential danger, and an important knowledge gap. On the Moon, the regolith has the conductivity of candle wax.
Therefore, grounding typically occurs through contact with the solar wind plasma. Within polar craters suited for
the collection of volatiles and native metal dust particles, however, the solar wind plasma is mostly absent. Thus, the
risk of triboelectric charging of astronauts and rovers to the point where potentially disruptive electrostatic discharges
(ESD) could occur is high: even when astronaut steps are limited to only 1 step every 10 s, simulations indicate that
surface potentials will increase indefinitely under some conditions, until something happens to equalize the
potential46with potentially disastrous consequences including loss of the RPM rovers functionality.
Possible mitigation tactics would include entering a shaded crater from the rim downwind from the solar wind
(i.e., heading into the solar wind), as the ambipolar electrical field set up by the electron cloud behind the windward
crater wall will deflect neutralizing ions toward the downstream end of the crater.34 It would be desirable to have
instrumentation capable of measuring electrical field strengths and surface potential; actual hard data on the
electrostatic environment within polar craters will ground-truth and inform future numerical simulations of the PSR
environment, and if it were known that the rovers triboelectric charge was building up to dangerous levels, it might
be possible to simply stop and wait for the charge to eventually dissipate.46 Spacecraft neutralizers in the form of
passive Spindt arrays may prove necessary. 53

3. Monatomic Hydrogen
Finally, there is the strange, yet intriguing possibility that dangerous buildups of monoatomic H may occur within
the PSRs. As discussed above, the LCROSS mission results, if they are accepted at face value, seemingly indicate that
the impact released more energy than the kinetic energy imparted by the Centaur impactor.8 Detonation of monatomic
H is the most likely explanation that can account for such an energy release: solar wind ions adsorbed by regolith
within PSRs could become neutralized; but because of the extreme cold temperatures, further chemistry might not
take place, allowing large concentrations of monatomic H to build up. If 56 kg of monatomic H were adsorbed in 1.75
m3 of regolith, then 1 m3 of regolith potentially contains the explosive equivalent of 1.67 tonnes of TNT. Moreover,
this represents a lower limit because the calculation above did not take into account the enthalpies of vaporization
required to atomize the observed constituents within the LCROSS ejecta plume.
The energy contained within a single 1 m 1 cm2 core drilled by RPM would only contain ~550 kJa negligible
amount of energy. However, the danger would be if the drilling operation caused a catastrophic chain reaction that
could cause the loss of the rover. A possible mitigation strategy would be to ensure that the RPM LAVA instrument
is calibrated to measure the presence of monatomic H. In addition, monitoring the temperature at the bit, and only
gradually increasing the weight on the bit during initial drilling operations and monitoring the results could detect a
release of energy before an explosion occurs.

IV. Conclusion
A consilience of several lines of evidence and reasoning supports the existence of electrostatic placer deposits of
native silver and gold at the lunar poles, in addition to concentrations of volatiles like water and mercury: (1) the
LCROSS mission itself, a series of careful studies that deserve to be taken seriously; (2) direct observation by Apollo

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astronauts and robots of signs of a dusty lunar exosphere; (3) numerical simulations of the Moons electrostatic
environment that demonstrate the feasibility of electrostatic dust transport; (4) our numerical simulation that
demonstrates that levitation of gold dust particles is favored compared with dielectric dust particles; (5) examination
of returned samples that demonstrate a depletion of Au (and Hg) in pristine source rocks compared with adjacent
regolith core samples; (6) ore genesis theory that predicts Au and Hg concentrations based on reasonable assumptions
that are in rough agreement with estimated concentrations that are in turn based on empirical observations of the LRO
LAMP instrument.
The apparent existence of enhanced native metal concentrations within the PSRs is an interesting scientific
problem in its own right. Moreover, potential economically recoverable gold (and platinum) deposits could prove to
be the key that opens up the lunar frontier for the benefit of all humanity. This is an opportunity that should not be
ignored. It would be a pity to send an expensive exploratory robot all the way to the Moon to the very areas where
these deposits are expected, yet lack the instrumentation necessary to characterize concentrations of native precious
metals. Finally, as has been long expected theoretically,10 and has now been empirically confirmed,5 there appear to
be high concentrations of the volatile Hg within the PSRs as well. The likely high concentration of Hg in PSRs is a
potential health hazard,10 and represents an important knowledge gap in our understanding of how to work
and live on the lunar surface that is left unaddressed by the RPM in its present configuration.

We applied to Hg the same analysis used for Au. Assuming Reeds figure of 5 ppb Hg liberated from the regolith
by thermal volatization yields an expected soil mass abundance of 0.042%assuming no Hg is lost to space. Since
Hg is chalcophilic, it is already enriched within the crust relative to the bulk concentration. Therefore, cold trap soil
mass abundances of Hg would not necessarily be enhanced by a companion moon carapace on the lunar farside.
However, it is likely that Reeds estimate of ~5 ppb liberated Hg is an underestimate. All measured Hg
concentrations were from either lunar soil samples, or hand samples of rock, and tended to range from <1 to ~30
ppb.54-56 As Reed noted, however, Hg can migrate out of solid rocks, and the concentration within a rock can vary
depending on its orientation to the Sun. Therefore, concentrations deep within virgin rocks should be much higher
than what has been measured so far. If the crustal mass abundance for Hg is the same as the Earths (Ci = ~85 ppb,
Eq. 6), and the average concentration within soils and smaller rocks exposed to surface conditions is ~10 ppb, then
the percentage of Hg that is volatized and transported (fi, Eq. 6) is ~88% of the primordial concentration Ci, and the
mass abundance liberated is 75 ppb. Assuming negligible losses to space, a regolith density of 2000 kg/m3, and a depth
of 10 mmost of which would have been exposed to the surface for extended periods at some point during the history
of the Moonthen the total mass mtot of liberated Hg is 5.7 1010 kg. Applying Eq. 7 (Dore = 1800 kg/m3, dtrap = 10
m), we calculate a soil mass abundance for Hg (Core) of 0.53%, not too far from the 0.39% Hg estimated by Ref. 8 on
the basis of the LRO LAMP results.4


The authors would like to thank Anthony Colaprete, Bernard Kutter, Paul Spudis, and Jerry Sanders for providing
information and helpful comments. Robert Thompson, a graduate student at the Department of Astronomy, University
of Arizona first proposed electrostatic dust levitation as a possible transport and concentration mechanism for native
precious metals.

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