Kiruna, the northernmost city in Sweden, is sinking. In fact, by 2050, most of its structures will have collapsed into the iron mines below it. So engineers have embarked upon an ambitious project to move Kiruna—along with its 20,000 residents—two miles to the east. A new documentary explains exactly how they plan to…
The largest great apes on Earth have suffered a “catastrophic” population collapse over the past twenty years, according to a report published today by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Grauer’s gorilla, a subspecies found only in the lawless eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, is a victim of the same brutal civil…
All these rich greens usually mean vegetation, but this is an arid, salty land almost totally inhospitable to plants. Instead, those are the markers of a brine rich in minerals, concentrated as the water evaporates.
No one has managed to pluck valuable minerals from an asteroid quite yet, but when they do, the legal framework will be firmly in place: earlier today, President Obama signed the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA) into law.
Corporations aren’t inherently evil, they’re only as greedy as the humans behind them. It’s the same thing with robots. Robots have no emotions—they’re just a pile of metal, screws and circuits—but they will be as mean, selfish, and avaricious as the people programming them.
Our current era may go down in history as the century of space exploration and off-Earth resource exploitation. But there are still considerable policy hurdles to overcome in terms of how we regulate such activities. As we turn our eyes to the skies, we should also look south to Antarctica to gain some insight into…
This time of year kayaks and inner tubes crowd the crystal-clear waters of the Animas River, which flows through the western Colorado city of Durango. Last night, the river was quickly abandoned as one million gallons of wastewater seeping from a local mine slowly trickled downstream, eventually coloring the entire…
Diamonds you’re familiar with. Pandanus candelabrum, not so much. And until recently, botanists didn’t pay much attention to this rare, palm-like plant from West Africa either. But the discovery that P. candelabrum grows only over rock that may harbor diamonds has vaulted the plant out of obscurity.
Rare earth elements are hard-to-find metals that we need for batteries, solar cells and electronics. These days, they’re mostly mined and processed in China. But it wasn’t always so. The history of rare earth elements is surprising, and some of it even takes place in America’s backyard. In fact, there is still a rare…
If you ever wondered how much land mass had to be moved to produce that diamond engagement ring, this series of photos should help put things in perspective.
It’s not something anyone likes to think about, but your smartphone—or your laptop, or the battery in your hybrid car—created a huge amount of toxic and radioactive waste. And now we know what happens to that waste in the long term. It returns to the earth, mingles with sludge, and finds its way into clay pots.
If you're not up on your fish-cum-metal news, then you might be forgiven for finding the idea of using fish sperm to recycle rare earth elements entirely bizarre. But no, fish sperm has a real albeit weird little niche in materials science. Let us be your guide through it.
Watching marble being extracted from a modern quarry is an impressive sight, one that requires a tricky combination of skill, coordination, and advanced machinery to achieve. But, without the aid of bulldozers and power tools, how did the ancient miners manage it?
Precious minerals make the modern world go 'round—they're used in everything from circuit boards to tableware. They're also some of the most toxic materials known to science, and excavating them has proved so dangerous over the years, some have been phased out of industrial production altogether.
Of all the ways humans have altered the Earth, mining must be one of the most awesome—just for the sheer ratio of Earth excavated to metals and gems recovered. Still, it's hard to visualize just how much a single mine has netted in numbers, which is why For What It's Worth is so interesting.
A few weeks ago, we looked at a photo essay on Mir Mine, a nearly mile-wide mine in Eastern Siberia that's one of the largest man-made holes on Earth's surface. It made us wonder: Where the largest hole ever made by humans? As it turns out, it's right here in the United States.
No, these aren't natural disasters, craters from a huge meteorite, or the burrows of some massive worm from space. These are mines, created by the Soviet Union to harness the awesome natural resources of Russia and Eastern Europe. But they look like a glimpse of Hell itself.
It's been almost four years since 33 Chilean miners were trapped below the surface of the earth for 69 days. A story published this week by The New Yorker reveals some additional stunning details about their harrowing rescue, and some astounding new information about the mine itself.