Harvest of Gold

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.

This story is part of our January/February 1999 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

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.

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from undefined

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Premium.

  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Join in and ask questions as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

You've read of free articles this month.