Growing Gold

As you have probably heard a million times from your parents growing up, money doesn’t grow on trees, but it may now be found in the roots and leaves of corn, canola or mustard plants according to a short piece on Business 2.0.

…Anderson spent eight years refining a chemical process that causes plants to hyperaccumulate gold particles from soil. When canola, corn, or mustard is planted on old mining land with high concentrations of gold particles, the crops soak up gold and store it in their roots and leaves.

In 2003 trials at former mines in Brazil, Anderson’s crops not only harvested gold but also accumulated mercury, the toxic metal long used by miners to extract gold. Though Tiaki’s process requires the use of chemical sprays, it still leaves the soil in better shape than before, so the company hopes to eventually sell its services as a way to re-green mining sites.

Basically, they plant whichever of the three grows best in the region where the old gold mine was located. After the crop matures, low levels of ammonium thiocyanate are sprayed on the soil. This causes the leaves to turn brown at which point the plants can be harvested. The plants are then burned in a 923 degree heated furnace and the remaining ash can be converted to gold.

Pretty ingenious, especially if it can work on a large scale. Then the next time somebody tells you that “money doesn’t grow on trees” you can tell them, “but it does in plants…”

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2 Responses to Growing Gold

  1. Jake says:

    Great idea but what then happens to the Mercury when the plants are burned?

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