Deep sea hydrothermal vents, home to exotic forms of life that exist nowhere else on earth, are very close to being commercially mined for precious and rare-earth metals. This could have profound effects on the isolated ecosystems surrounding the vents, some of which have existed for millennia.
Rocks mined from the seafloor have been confirmed as a viable source for rare earth metals, and thus a tiny piece of the ocean might soon find its way into a cell phone or computer chipboard near you. The finding, published in the April 2014 issue of Applied Geochemistry, all but guarantees a new round of focus on…
Plants that eat metal sound like a biological impossibility. But these hungry little guys exist, sucking tiny bits of toxic metal from the soil. They don't just clean the Earth, either—they can actually mine bits of gold and nickel for use by humans.
Scientists at the Institute of Physiological Chemistry and Pathobiochemistry at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany want to prevent the next generation of international conflict over scarce natural resources. So they're trying to reverse-engineer metal-extracting bacteria.