A small nanotech company based in Mississauga, Ontario claims to have developed a technology that can recover metals from mine tailings using “nature’s very own sponges” – crustacean shells.
“Scientists have known for years that this is a very effective answer in nature for water filtration,” NanoStruck CEO Bundeep Singh Rangar told Mississauga.com, giving the example of shrimp in a dirty harbour. “The question is how do you take that shell and repurpose that for human purposes and industrial purposes?”
Testing from mining operations in Africa showed that the technology could “retrieve more than 80 per cent of some of the precious metals they contain,” Mississauga.com wrote.
Coming at it as a water treatment company gives NanoStruck an advantage because they have the technology to extract tiny particles of precious metals from water, Rangar told 680 News.
“We can pull out precious metals from tailings … left behind from the primary mining activities … gold, silver, platinum, palladium. Things that would not be easy to pull out for a mining company.”
NanoStruck estimates that there is about $1 trillion worth of precious metals already extracted from the ground, sitting in old mining sites. The company is in the process of setting up recovery plants in South Africa and Mexico. The value of precious metals recovered would be shared with the tailing site owners.
According to NanoStruck, using these “molecular sponges” can boost the value of existing mining assets and “reduce the need for new, costly and potentially environmentally harmful exploration and mining.”
As for water purification, the technology is already being applied to runoff from a landfill in Mexico.