The technique of phytomining involves growing a crop of a metal-hyperaccumulating plant species, harvesting the
biomass and burning it to produce a bio-ore. In the first phytomining experiment, it was found that a yield of 100 kg/ha of sulphur-free Ni could be produced.
We have used the same technique to test the phytomining potential of the Ni-hyperaccumulators Alyssum
bertolonii from Italy and Berkheya coddii from South Africa. The effect of different fertiliser treatments on growth of
Alyssum bertolonii was established in situ in Tuscany and showed that the biomass of the plant could be increased by
a factor of nearly 3 (4.5 t=ha to 12 t=ha) without significant loss of the Ni concentration (7600 mg=kg) in the plant.
Analogous experiments have been carried out on Berkheya coddii where a biomass yield of over 20 t=ha can readily be
achieved though the Ni concentration is not as high as in A. bertolonii. The total yield is, however, much greater. We
have also been able to induce plants to hyperaccumulate Au by adding ammonium thiocyanate to the substrate. Up to
57 mg=kg Au (dry mass) could be accumulated by Indian mustard (Brassica juncea). Unusual hyperaccumulation (>500
mg=kg dry mass) of Tl has been determined in Iberis intermedia and Biscutella laevigata (Brassicaceae) from southern
France. The Iberis contained up to 0.4% Tl (4000 mg=kg) in the whole-plant dry matter and the Biscutella over 1.5%.
This unusually high accumulation of Tl has significance for animal and human health, phytoremediation of contaminated
soils, and phytomining for Tl. We calculate that using Iberis, a net return of $ US 1200=ha (twice the return from a crop
of wheat) would be possible with a biomass yield of 10 t=ha containing 0.08% Tl in dry matter. The break-even point (net
yield of $ US 500=ha) would require 170 mg=kg (0.017%) Tl in dry matter. A model of a phytomining operation and its
economics is presented and its advantages and disadvantages discussed.
C.W.N. Anderson a, R.R. Brooks a,, A. Chiarucci b, C.J. LaCoste a, M. Leblancc,
B.H. Robinson d, R. Simcocke, R.B. Stewart a
a Soil and Earth Sciences, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
b Dipartimento di Biologia Ambientale, Universita` di Siena, Siena, Italy
c Ge´ofluides-Bassins-Eau, CNRS, Universite´ de Montpellier II, Montpellier 34095, France
d Horticulture and Food Research Institute, Palmerston North, New Zealand
e Landcare Research Ltd., Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
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