Extracting minerals from plants may lessen the impact of mining and help the environment.

Phytomining means extracting minerals from plants. Some plants it turns out can suck up metals from the earth, 700 of them as it turns out. It is usually done through their roots which absorb the metal from the soil. Nickel is the one metal that has proven to be effectively harvested in this way, but others it is hoped can also be, such as zinc and rare earth minerals. Mining nickel in a traditional way is hard on the environment, as all mining is. It is also expensive and requires equipment. Growing plants as has been done in Malaysia and Indonesia is not. The plants take about 6 months to grow, and then the neon blue green sap  that oozes can be harvested. Nickel is used in making steel, and increasingly in the making of batteries for electric vehicles and for renewable energies. Nickel is expensive and harvesting instead of mining it reduces the cost. More importantly it provides livelihood for many farmers. It can not only help the environment by avoiding mining, it can also help clean up areas harmed by the deposits of mining and other industries. The plants can extract the minerals from that soil and in time make that soil usable again. Unlike the devastation of the rain forests in Borneo or the Amazon, the plants which extract the minerals grow in grassy areas, so the consequence of destroying natural resources can be avoided. The idea of Phytomining is actually 500 years old but it took a while for it to be rediscovered and for it to become practical,  and as can be expected, it took many years for the patents to be obtained. Now that all that is behind, the process can go forward. It’s promising and it’s fascinating.  For one, the whole notion that plants can extract minerals from the soil is one of nature’s amazing  traits.

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