Project “PHYTOCAT” – A Green Mining Method

As reported on ASM International, an international team of scientists from different universities will work on the project “PHYTOCAT” which is supported by the G8 Research Councils Initiative on Multilateral Research Funding. The research is aimed at exploring plants with the ability of extracting metals from mine tailings.

From University’ s Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence and the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), researchers aim to develop ways to extract platinum group metals (PGM) discarded during mine processing which might then be used in catalysis. The research will investigate “phyto-mining,” which involves growing plants on mine waste materials to sponge up PGM into their cellular structure.

Professor James Clark, the Director of the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at York, says: “We are looking at ways of turning these residual metals into their catalytically active form using the plants to extract them from the mine waste. The plant is heated in a controlled way with the result that the metal is embedded in a nanoform in the carbonized plant.