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"We [science fiction writers] always wanted to believe in "private sector" space -- hucksters make better characters than a government does."
- Larry Niven

Space Placers  
  Miners who use placer mining techniques adapted from Earth geology.  

A fascinating description of Saturn's rings from the standpoint of a mining geologist.

In the outer rings of Saturn worked space placers, gathering to earth's wealth the valuable shards of what had once been satellites.
From The Day We Celebrate, by Nelson S. Bond.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1941
Additional resources -

In geology, a placer deposit or placer is an accumulation of minerals formed by gravity separation during sedimentary processes. The name comes from the Spanish word placer meaning "alluvial sand".

The part that I find fascinating is that the author implies that in the rings of Saturn there could be a useful separation of minerals or materials caused by gravity over millions of years.

Fans of Mark Twain of course remember the wonderful description of placer mining from his excellent 19th century novel Roughing It.

Compare to harvesting Saturn's rings from Alfred Bester's 1978 novel The Computer Connection.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Day We Celebrate
  More Ideas and Technology by Nelson S. Bond
  Tech news articles related to The Day We Celebrate
  Tech news articles related to works by Nelson S. Bond

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