The use of certain plants that tolerate growth in metallo-contaminated soils has positive environmental and mining resource industry implications.
“Metallophytes means metal-loving plants—they are a type of plant that seem to be found on metal rich substrates or soils all over the world. They have particular characteristics in being able to tolerate high metal concentrations, and in some cases hyper accumulate that metal in their system,” he says.
According to Prof Tibbett, metallophytes have a wide range of potential uses in the minerals industry depending on their characteristics.
‘Excluder’ plants are able grow in soils with a high presence of metals and draw these metals out without storing them where they can become an eco-toxicological problem.
‘Indicator’ species respond very closely to metal concentration in the soil or the substrate, and indicate the levels of toxicity present in terms of a particular metal.
‘Hyperaccumulators’ have the potential to be developed for phytoextraction, the uptake of contaminants and heavy metals from the soil with the opportunity for ‘re-mining’ the subsequent plant biomass.