Action Research highlight: Future mining with plants?

An IM4DC-sponsored Action Research project is assisting with the development of hyperaccumulator phytotechnology in Zambia.

The Copper-Cobalt Belt of Zambia is one of the richest metallophyte (plants endemic to metal-enriched soils) locations in the world. The concomitant occurrence of hyperaccumulator species (metallophytes able to accumulate up to 2% copper and cobalt metal in their living tissues) and large areas of metal-enriched and metal contaminated soils made a compelling case for research in Zambia.

A diverse team of researchers from Australia, South Africa and Belgium joined collaborators from the Copperbelt University in Zambia to conduct fieldwork in October/ November 2014.

One of the first sites the team visited was the Kansanshi mine site operated by First Quantum Minerals Ltd, in the North Western Province of Zambia. The team was welcomed to site by the Corporate Social Responsibility Manager and the Exploration Division who had been using “copper plants” to identify mineral deposits. After a broad ranging discussion of the project goals and team’s desire to find metallophyte species, First Quantum assisted the team reach areas within the mine lease that had a high potential to contain hyperaccumulator plant species.