“Mining” Gold with Plants
Mining has always fallen within the purview of a bold set—grizzled prospectors hunting gold in California, conglomerates with heavy machinery digging coal in Pennsylvania. It’s a dirty, often dangerous, and certainly destructive business. Now scientists think that they can come up with a new, more passive means of attaining valuable earthen materials, even if only industrially.
Enter botanical science.
Like the pennycress plants mentioned in a previous post, “hyperaccumulators” have shown valuable potential for sucking up pollutants from toxic soil. The scope of their appetite can include metals like zinc, cadmium, and nickel. But what if we could use plants to net unseen particles of gold from ground soil? It’s called “phytomining,” and the idea is making the rounds.
The process isn’t as easy as it sounds; scientists have to essentially liquefy the gold using worrisome ground chemicals to make it happen (and probably nullifying many of the environmental benefits we’d see from getting gold particulate in this manner). But they argue that the benefits of using this on already-polluted mining sites could outweigh the negatives. And as explored curiosity goes, it’s at least an interesting concept. Click through for more. —MN