Bacteria Could Help Extract Gold from Mine Waste

Nature reported the discovery of a type of bacterium that grows in toxic solutions of gold by forming nanoscale gold nuggets, commenting that the molecule the bacteria use to create the gold particles could be used to extract gold from mine waste — although that is not likely to happen in the near future.

As quoted in the market news:

A microbe-assisted gold rush might yet happen, says [Frank] Reith [of Australia's University of Adelaide]. Delftibactin could be used to produce gold-nanoparticle catalysts for many chemical reactions, or to precipitate gold from waste water produced at mines. “The idea could be to use a bacterium or metabolite to seed these waste-drop piles, leave them standing for years, and see if bigger particles form,” says Reith.

[Nathan] Magarvey [of McMaster University in Canada] takes those applications seriously: he has secured intellectual-property rights for delftibactin. But he emphasizes that he is most interested in understanding the metabolite’s chemical properties. “I wish I could say we’re up here in Canada growing kilos of gold everyday.”

Click here to read the full Nature report.