24 April 2004

Planting the seeds of change

[source, source]

He can’t quite make money grow from trees, but a New Zealand scientist has devised a way to harvest gold from plants.

The idea: Use common crops to soak up contaminants in soil from gold-mining sites and return the areas to productive agriculture. The gold harvested from the process pays for the cleanup - with money left over for training in sustainable agriculture.


The process is called phyto- remediation. First, he treats the contaminated soil with chemicals that break the gold down into water-soluble particles. Then he introduces the crops.

“Basically a plant will take up anything that’s in the soil,” he says. Corn and canola have a natural ability to take up huge amounts of metal.

Of course, the crops aren’t eaten because they’re full of toxic metals.

Instead, Anderson harvests them for their minerals as they begin to die. He estimates he can recover 1 kilogram of gold per hectare (14 ounces an acre) and about half as much mercury through this process. Then the gold is used to pay for the cleanup and to educate locals about sustainable agriculture.

This is not only geek-cool, but actually useful. This is exactly the kind of “green” technology that any non-Idiotarian should support. It makes a stunning contrast to the hair-shirt kind of environmentalism one normally sees.

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