Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Gold miners aren’t going to want to throw away their drills and explosives-at least, not right away. But in New Zealand, researchers have come up with another way to mine gold. It’s a plant, Brassica juncea, that is in the same family as cabbage.

No one is likely to strike it rich using this floral method, says Robert R. Brooks, a geochemist at New Zealand’s Massey University who trained the plant in gold mining. But it could provide an effective way to glean gold from the “tailings,” or spent earth, around old mines.

The New Zealand scientists added to the soil the compound ammonium thiocyanate, which binds to gold particles, forming a water-soluble complex that is transported through the roots and gathered in the shoots and leaves. The dried plants can be incinerated, leaving small flecks of ore in the ash.

Brooks is prospecting for other plants that can absorb gold even more efficiently. He speculates that the technology of induced accumulation might also be applied to collect silver, platinum, palladium and other precious metals.

With the price of platinum even higher than that of gold, it just might be time to get out the rototiller and expand that garden this spring.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Web

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me