heavy metal corn

Money that grows on crops:
In the fragile Amazon River basin, for example, there are hundreds of artisanal mines where workers pour mercury, cyanide, and other chemicals onto gold-rich areas to extract the metal. Once the mine is exhausted, they abandon it and move on, leaving behind a toxic soup of contaminants.

"Basically a plant will take up anything that's in the soil," he says. Corn and canola have a natural ability to take up huge amounts of metal.

Of course, the crops aren't eaten because they're full of toxic metals. Instead, Anderson harvests them for their minerals as they begin to die. He estimates he can recover 14 ounces an acre and about half as much mercury through this process. Then the gold is used to pay for the cleanup and to educate locals about sustainable agriculture.

During the metal-harvesting, his team trains local people in farming techniques, so once the land is clean, they can reclaim it and use it for subsistence farming.

Current Music: Logiq -- Elation ♬

15 Responses:

  1. coldacid says:

    Now there's a creative solution to cleaning up this planet.

  2. Was wondering what happened to you, since your posts became so sparse in the past week. I was used to interesting info a few times a day . Glad to see you back.

  3. stenz says:

    Hopefully the field of metal absorbing crops doesn't catch fire. Heavy metals are bad enough without making them airborne in smoke and whatnot.

    That said, I bet it would make for a bunch of pretty colors.

    • denshi says:

      Have you ever seen a burning cornfield?

      • stenz says:

        Only once, why?

        • denshi says:

          I WANT PICTURES.

          • stenz says:

            You're hitting on me aren't you? Say it.

            It was in my youth when I lived in farm country. My more recent years have been in Boston, not exactly known for its corn growing industry, and I currently live in Bermuda, which I don't think grows any corn.

            So I can't give you any photos, but I can say that the fields do occasionally catch fire - that said, it is usually either lightning or arson, but it happens.
            (That is discounting the concept that many farmers, once the field is harvested, will burn the remaining stalks so that they more easily/readily can be tilled back into the soil and the nitrogen can be reused... not sure what purpose, if any, the resultant carbon has there)

  4. jerronimo says:

    the black and silver (corn)

  5. jkonrath says:

    I'd be interested to see the math behind this. If he can really get 14 oz/acre of gold (running at ~$400/ounce these days) this would be a hell of a deal. Do a google search and you'll find that the average price of raising an acre of corn out in one of those square states to be about $1500/acre. That includes pesticides, which is an interesting question here - do you need to keep away the bugs to guarantee an optimal yield of gold if people aren't eating the corn? If you use no pesticides, do you end up with some huge clusterfuck problem of mutant mercury-eating weevils? How much does it cost to dispose mercury? (not free) And is Brazilian farming cheaper than in the US? My guess is that it's cheaper, but with lower yield.

    • denshi says:

      OTOH, if you did this in the US you could get those huge corn subsidies. Eventually subsidies might be given to prevent farmers from growing mercury-gold corn, so as not to flood the market.

  6. willco says:

    That's damn cool. Some high school kid in oklahoma got an EPA grant to do something similar with prairie grasses in Northern Oklahoma, where lead mining pretty much fucked up the local aquifer.

    But this guy know how to turn a buck in the process. That is genius.

  7. torgo_x says:

    South America -- it's the new Africa!!!!

  8. erg says:

    Subsistance farming...once he's removed the gold? Corn Fed White man rapes indian villagers. A Maizing.

    Yes, I'm kidding. Posted this on my LJ before I saw it here.
    I'm thinking there are places in Oregon this could be done.
    Reminds me of Changing world Technologies.