Mining among the Solar System colonies means either opencast surface mines on moons, or asteroid mining. Asteroids have only 10% as much aluminum and titanium as lunar soil, so the Moon’s main exports are ores rich in those two metals.
The Moon mines were established first — as a source of raw materials for building powersats — and are still the most productive. Lunar mines produce aluminum, titanium, iron and silica ( used to produce fibreglass); another product of major importance is oxygen, which is chemically bound to the metals and the silicon and represents about 40% of the rocks’ composition. Lesser but still useful constituents of lunar rock include hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, sulphur and sodium.
The ore is refined on the Moon or in nearby colonies, since shipping refined metals is cheaper than shipping bulky unrefined ore. Since everything must be recycled, and water is in short supply, refining uses complex and costly chemical processes.
IEX Lunar Base
The Institut des Etudes Xenologiques (IEX) maintains a base on Luna separate from other settlements as one of two off-Earth quarantine facilities (the other is in orbit at L-5). Like the L-5 facility, it is devoted to the study of extraterrestrial organisms too hazardous to bring to Earth itself. Strict decontamination procedures are followed by all personnel entering or leaving these facilities. In the event of an accidental escape of alien organisms, the lab complexes can be sealed off and the contaminated areas sterilized through various methods, including opening the areas to the vacuum of space.
The IEX lunar base is a fairly independent facility, with living quarters for the staff located in a building connected to the lab complex by a tube system capable of being sealed off and sterilized in the event of an accident in the labs. Specimens kept at the lunar base are generally those that are gravity inspecific, or those whose natural environment is very low gravity. Landing facilities adjacent to the base allow easy transport to and from the base.