BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Luxembourg on Friday upped its bid to be a leader in the nascent space mining industry by setting aside 200 million euros ($223 million) to fund initiatives aimed at bringing back rare minerals from space.

Luxembourg in February announced plans for a law that would make it the first state in Europe to give legal clarity to the commercial exploitation of asteroids. A similar law was passed by the United States in November.

"We have a first budget to get started but if we need more money, we will be able to provide it," Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg's economy minister told a news conference.

Luxembourg's ambitions drew interest from pioneers in the field such as U.S. operators Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries which aim to set up offices in the grand duchy.

A first reconnaissance mission to scout nearby asteroids for resources could take place as soon as three years from now.

Primarily known for its fund management and private banking industry, Luxembourg has high ambitions for the exploration of space.

"Luxembourg's aims is to be in the top 10 space faring nations in the world," Schneider said.

One of the successes the country can point to is Luxembourg's SES one of the world's largest operators of communication satellites.

"In 1985 the government decided to launch the first satellite. We had huge discussions then that nobody would need that kind of satellite or that it could fall from the sky," Schneider added.

Under international law, mining in space is a contentious subject as international treaties call for exploration to be carried out for the benefit of all countries.

Mining in space could not only help to bring back minerals to earth, but also aid with the exploration of distant planets by producing fuel for far away missions.

(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Angus MacSwan)