Mining Nickel From Plants Is Possible & Could Cut CO2 Emissions

I had a friend who shared an interesting article from with me. The article asked this question:Can plants that absorb minerals from the soil replace mining?“It’s an interesting idea. We eat plants every day for their mineral content, but are we actively growing plants that contain huge amounts of metals like nickel and extract that metal for industrial purposes? That’s agricultural mining.”

The article pointed out that miners have this saying: If it cannot be cultivated, it must be mined. However, mining is devastating to our planet and our environment. If we want to solve this, we need to use renewable technology that depends on getting more and more of these minerals and minerals from the earth. It sounds like a vicious cycle – and it is – but the idea of ​​growing plants specifically to absorb minerals through the soil is very innovative.

That’s what agricultural mining is. Share the article, a video from Bloomberg which explored whether or not agricultural mining would be scalable enough to reduce traditional mining practices. The video showed that the demand for minerals is rising more and more, especially in the year following the outbreak of the epidemic. Everything from home appliances to manufacturing electric cars to building bridges or highways requires metal.

Nickel mining has been increasing since the early 2000s, mostly due to the economic boom of China. The rise of electric vehicles is also playing a major role in the demand for nickel.

The video also indicated that for the past 30 years, researchers from all over the world have been following agricultural mining. Agricultural farming, also known as plant mining, is simply the cultivation of plants that can store minerals such as zinc and then harvest them later. Researchers have worked to recover zinc, rare earth elements, and even cobalt using these methods.

The video noted that mining has many devastating effects on the environment, from acid rain to air pollution. In 2020, Elon Musk announced that Tesla was researching sustainably mined nickel. Yvonne Yu Lee with Bloomberg News He noted that nickel, not steel, has the highest density of carbon dioxide emissions.

“You might think that steel is the most polluting metal when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions intensity, but in fact nickel has the highest carbon dioxide density of all metals. The average carbon dioxide emissions per ton of metal for nickel production is about 18 tons. of carbon dioxide per ton of metal.

Nickel processing, smelting, and refining also results in the highest carbon dioxide emissions from the mined metals. Lee noted that the mining industry is trying to focus on making nickel mining more sustainable. She cited the example of plants using renewable energy and hybrid systems as a fuel source. However, the mining industry as a whole is very slow compared to other industries.

Mining is just a very energy-intensive activity. As mentioned in the video, if there is a mine with 1% copper, 90% of the material will be waste.

The video also gave an interview to Dr. Anthony van der Ent of the University of Queensland, who is one of the principal researchers in the field of agricultural mining.

“Accumulators are a rare group of plants that have an extraordinary ability to accumulate very high concentrations of certain minerals in their live shoots, even in their leaves. We know about 700 of them occurring worldwide.

Most of them are known for nickel-500 or so. We know the excessive accumulators of a whole host of different metals, including thallium, zinc, copper, cobalt, and manganese. But we keep discovering more of these plants wherever we do our research.

“So there are about 350,000 plant species around the world, and we think there’s more over-accumulation waiting to be discovered.”

How do these plants accumulate minerals? An excessive nickel plant literally consumes the metal from the soil through its roots. The mineral is then stored in the skin of its leaves or biomass. Once the plants are harvested, the biomass is then dried and burned. Ash from burning plants is ready to be processed to create a bio-ore. Then the nickel is recovered from the bio-ore.

The ash contained up to 20% nickel, which is more than any nickel ore found on Earth. Share the video exactly how it is processed or extracted from the ashes. The video also shows details about the plants and how they are raised and grown. These plants are also used to decontaminate contaminated soil that contains massive amounts of lead, zinc, or other metals. One of the plants featured in the video has leaves that can contain up to 4% nickel in dry weight. Burning plants uses energy, but the team’s tests found that the overall agricultural mining process uses far less energy than traditional mining procedures.

You can watch the full video here.

I think this is a great way to recover minerals (and minerals) that are used for industrial purposes as well as other purposes such as health or medicine. I think we need a company that will do what the automaker Tesla did until they figure out a way to scale agricultural mining. This could revolutionize the mining industry while also helping to remove soil contaminated with metals such as lead. We will be watching what happens in this sector and if at some point the cost becomes competitive with traditional mining on a decent scale.

Do we appreciate the originality of CleanTechnica? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, Ambassador – or Patreon Sponsor.


Do you have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest on our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Leave a Comment