Search for Space Junk Turns to Gold – by Ross Kelly (Wall Street Journal – February 13, 2014)

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Mark Creasy Swaps Nickel Deposit Stake for Cash, Shares in Sirius Resources

SYDNEY—It is one of the most unusual lucky strikes in mining folklore: the prospector who stumbled on a large nickel deposit while searching for the wreckage of a space station in the Australian outback.

Now, Mark Creasy is on paper 188 million Australian dollars (US$167 million) richer after swapping his remaining 30% stake in the deposit for cash and shares in Sirius Resources Ltd., which wants to develop a new nickel mine.

Mr. Creasy is already one of Australia’s richest men, with another big discovery—a gold deposit known as Bronzewing—selling for A$117 million in 1991 and earning him an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the highest payout to a prospector at that time. According to the most recent Sunday Times Rich List in April, Mr. Creasy was worth an estimated £500 million (US$833 million).

He isn’t resting on his laurels, telling The Wall Street Journal that he will use the proceeds of the latest deal to keep searching for more minerals in Western Australia state, including in the remote Pilbara region where BHP Billiton Ltd. BHP.AU +1.05% and Rio Tinto source most of their iron ore.

“I’ve got a very major exploration program under way, which I’ve had going since 1968,” he said. “At the moment, it’s costing me a million dollars a month.”

Mr. Creasy identified the potential of the nickel deposit in 1979, when he drove deep into Australia’s red center to search for debris from the Skylab space station, which was partly strewed across Western Australia state instead of falling entirely into the Indian Ocean as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had hoped.

Skylab—first launched into Earth’s orbit on a rocket six years earlier—had played a central role in proving that humans could work in space for an extended periods. Three-man crews had occupied the Skylab workshop for more than 170 days while in orbit.

Mr. Creasy hoped to sell any Skylab debris that he could find to space enthusiasts. But he only found two nitrogen tanks, for which he couldn’t find a buyer and continues to own.

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