Hemp Investigated as Atmosphere Clear-up Crop for South African Gold Mines

It was used after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the 1990s. Research is currently underway in South Africa suggesting that hemp may be able to clear some of the most devastated areas on earth – namely, South African gold mines.

In a groundbreaking study funded by the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, a PhD student, Tiago Campbell, a master’s candidate in environmental science, is studying phytoremediation as a way to regenerate over 400 kilometers of land in Gauteng, Free., State and Northwest Provinces.

This is an area of ​​the planet that is known for several things. It is one of the richest gold deposits in the world (and has been since it was first discovered). Mining began in South Africa in 1852 (copper, not gold), but the onslaught has barely abated since then. Two of the largest diamonds in the world were excavated in the 1860s, including the 83-carat Star of South Africa (also known as the Cullinan I diamond, which sits in the Queen of England’s gold scepter) and the 21-carat Eureka diamond , which was predictably caught off a precious metal and gemstone rush in the country.

Unsurprisingly, it is also home to several of the ten deepest mines in the world, including the deepest in the world, the Mponeng Gold Mine, which extends up to 4.27 km (just over two miles) underground, the second deepest Mine, Driefontein Mine (3.42 km deep), the third deepest mine (Kusasalethu Gold Mine), 3.38 km deep, the Moab Khotsong Gold Mine, the fourth deepest in the world (with a little more than 3 km deep at its deepest point) , South Deep Gold Mine (2.99 km deep) and the Kopanang Gold Mine (2.24 km deep). In fact, the only other mines in the top ten are in Canada and the United States

All mining has never been environmentally friendly – to say the least. However, the concentration of such activity in such close proximity also creates a perfect storm for a widespread environmental disaster area that is toxic to plant, animal and human life.

According to the authorities, there are more than 380 gold mines in Gauteng Province alone, which contain increased amounts of toxic and radioactive metals such as cadmium, cobalt, copper, zinc, uranium and arsenic.

How hemp can help South Africa

According to Campbell, the results of his previous study, when obtained by High Times, are not hemp-specific as he was also unable to obtain a cannabis license to grow his plants on campus. So far he has only used a different type of fiber plant. However, he also said, “Based on my understanding and experience of the cannabis plant, I strongly advocate its validity and potential for use in phytoremediation strategies. I was in contact with a team at Vaal University of Technology who are actively researching numerous cannabis strains for phytoremediation. The team is really doing pioneering work in this work, I hope to be involved in their work in the future. “

Hemp is known (and South African research further confirms this) as a “hyperaccumulator” of heavy metals. In addition, it outperforms other plants that have already been studied for phytoremediation potential, including Indian mustard, water hyacinth, alfalfa, and sunflower.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the cost of phytoremediation to remove dangerous heavy metals from the soil is between 20 and 50 percent of the cost of conventional (and more expensive) methods.

So far, almost 1,000 plants have been placed in the soil from the polluted areas and all of them have grown normally in laboratory tests.

Such plants could not be consumed by animals or humans, but could be used downstream as non-consumable plant fiber projects (like plant concrete).

Regardless, the news is optimistic and comes at a time when the entire South African cannabis discussion is in full swing.