Research Team Turns Mine Waste Into Arable Soil

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News in brief: A team of scientists has developed a method to turn toxic mine waste, known as tailings, into arable soil using microbes and high-energy X-rays, potentially reclaiming millions of hectares of damaged land and saving on storage costs. The breakthrough is seen as a significant advancement in mine reclamation, aiming to restore ecosystems and mitigate the dangers posed by tailings facilities.

An Australian-Canadian team of scientists and engineers has discovered a way to turn mine waste into arable soil. Their research can be found on the American Chemical Society Publications.

The team, from the universities of Queensland and Saskatchewan, said that their motivation came from the high costs of storing mine waste and the dangers when such facilities they break down or are abandoned.

Using the Canadian Light Source (CLS), they found a way to accelerate this process of repopulating the tailings with soil microbes.

Mine waste, also known as tailings, is the leftover material from mining after all the useful metals have been removed. It is typically toxic from heavy metals and cannot be used for anything else. Tailings are stored in facilities to prevent them from polluting groundwater or farmland.

The team’s method uses microbes to restore life to the lifeless rock. They found that by using a synchrotron particle accelerator to expose the tailings to high-energy X-rays, they could kill harmful bacteria and encourage the growth of beneficial microbes.

The team has already successfully used this reanimated soil to grow maize and sorghum and they believe that their method could be used to reclaim millions of hectares of land that have been damaged by mining.

Experts believe that his is a significant breakthrough in the field of mine reclamation. It also boasts the potential to save billions of dollars in storage fees, while removing the threat of disasters caused by tailings facilities. It is expected to help to restore ecosystems that have been damaged by mining.

Joseph Akahome
Joseph Akahome
Joseph O Akahome (OJ) is a writer, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Literature from the University of Benin. He is an avid agriculturist, with a bias for poultry and an insatiable appetite for chicken wings. When he is neither reading nor researching, he likes to spend recreational time playing board games, or swimming in serene forested lakes.


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