Speaker: Dr Antony van der Ent, Senior Research Fellow, UQ Amplify Researcher, Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation

Hyperaccumulators are plants that have the ability to accumulate extremely high concentrations of metals in their shoots. Hyperaccumulator plants are known for elements such as cobalt, copper, manganese, nickel, selenium, thallium and zinc. Phytomining is a technique that can be applied to minerals and mining wastes using hyperaccumulator plants to purposely bio-concentrate high levels of metals into their shoots in order to remove them from the substrate, while achieving monetary gain from the ‘bio-ore’ produced.

In the past, technological limitations have not allowed the complete extraction of particular valuable metals from mine wastes such as tailings. As a result, mine wastes often contain residual metals and consequently “yesterday’s waste can be today’s resource”. In this presentation I will outline the main considerations for applying phytomining using selected elemental case studies in which key characteristics of the element, hyperaccumulation and economic considerations are evaluated.

The phytomining techniques to extract nickel, cobalt and thallium are well within reach to be developed and implemented in the next decade. Phytomining needs industrial champions to develop demonstration sites and to ensure that this critical work can be scaled to appropriate levels in areas where it is feasible.

Bio: Antony's research concentrates on trace element hyperaccumulator plants (especially those occurring in tropical regions), and the use of advanced analytical techniques based on X-rays for characterising the in situ metallome of plants. His research aims to support the development of novel phytotechnologies that make use of the unique properties of hyperaccumulator plants, including phytoremediation and agromining. Antony's research bridges systematics, ecology and physiology of plants and is highly collaborative in nature. He works closely with plant taxonomists, ecologists, agronomists and X-ray physicists in order to advance understanding of the regulation of trace elements in plants. Read more

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The Sustainable Minerals Institute Webinar Series showcases the exciting research underway across SMI - from processing to social performance to health and safety - join us on a Tuesday for the presentation followed by Q&A with the researcher.

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