As the production of electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines ramps up, so too does the demand for “green” minerals. (In fact, the World Bank predicts that production of such minerals as lithium, cobalt and graphite will increase by nearly 500 per cent by 2050.) Yet traditional means of extraction often exacts a heavy toll on the environment. To lighten the impact, some companies are turning to a tiny solution: microbes found underground.
A new initiative with Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster is looking to identify helpful microbes that can replace the use of chemicals in mining and site remediation. The project aims to build a repository of microbes and geochemical data by extracting the DNA from more than 15,000 mining sites.
How it works: Think of the human genome. Since its mapping in 2003, researchers and health care practitioners have a much better understanding of how diseases work and how to best target them.
This microbiome project aims to generate its own map for natural resources — a database of microbial genes that can break down waste as well as absorb metals and carbon dioxide. For instance, microbes can be used to extract valuable metals from waste rock piles and tailings.
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