Interesting: mining with plants

Spotted at bayourenaissanceman’s blog: some plants accumulate nickel to the point where it can be commercially viable to harvest them.


The University of Queensland’s van der Ent has calculated that a hyper-accumulator like Phyllantus balgoyii can produce an estimated 120kg of nickel per hectare every year. That translates to a market value of around $1,754 (£1,300) per hectare. Extracting the nickel involves pruning the shoots – which hold the highest concentrations of the metal – and burning them, after which the nickel can be separated from the ash.

$1,754 isn’t a whole lot of money, but if we’re talking about, perhaps, rehabilitating an area which has been damaged–say by wholesale nickel strip-mining–or an area on which it isn’t possible to grow other crops, might work. At least, it ought to allow the grow op to pay for itself.

There are also a few species that hyperaccumulate iron, or so the article seems to imply.

It does seem like a very elfish, in tune with nature-way to extract resources from the Earth, doesn’t it? (Curufinwe Feanaro could not be reached for comment.)

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