Can plants that suck metal from soil replace mining?

Pycnandra acuminata, a rainforest shrub endemic to New Caledonia and is adapted to the nickel-rich ultramafic soils found there. Credit: Wikipedia

There’s a saying among miners that if it can’t be grown, it must be mined. And while mining is a monstrously destructive process when it comes to the environment, any hope humans have of escaping the gathering climate crisis will turn on renewable technology. And that technology depends on obtaining more and more metals from the ground.

Agro-mining is the process of growing plants that absorb metal through soil, an elegant mechanism to clean poisoned lands and maybe gather battery components like nickel and cobalt without blowing holes in the ground and laying waste to surrounding ecosystems. On this episode of The Spark, Bloomberg Digital Originals explores whether this innovation will ever be scalable enough to reduce traditional, destructive mining practices.


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