A company called Planetary Resources has some very well known backers in the technology and film industry. The bigwigs lending money and name to the asteroid mining enterprise included Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, and James Cameron. The goal of the company is to send a spacecraft to nearby asteroids where it can grab those asteroids and mine them.
Initially, the company intends to focus on developing and selling low-cost robotic spacecraft for surveying missions. The company intends to launch a demonstration mission within two years according to company founders Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson. The goal is to open up space exploration to private companies. Within the next 5 to 10 years, Planetary Resources wants to make a change from selling observation platforms that are in orbit around the Earth to prospecting services by investigating the thousands of asteroids that pass close to the earth.
The ultimate goal is to extract raw materials from these asteroids such as platinum and gold. Another goal has nothing to do with gold. The company hopes to be able to harness passing asteroids for materials such as water to allow the asteroid to act as orbiting fueling stations. There is no indication of exactly when the mining operations might start for the company. Reuters reports that a 30m long asteroid can hold as much is $25-$50 billion in platinum according to Diamandis.