South Africa Examines Hemp Production To Clean Up Gold Mining Areas
As part of an overall plan of including cannabis in its economic development plan, the government is currently examining how (and if) cultivation of hemp can restore land blighted by gold extraction
The University of the Witwatersrand is currently funding a study to determine if the cultivation of hemp might be able to restore land that has been blighted by the highly toxic and destructive practice of mining gold.
A master’s degree candidate, Tiago Campbell, is examining the suitability of several different crops for their phytorestorative properties. This includes Indian mustard, water hyacinth, alfalfa, and sunflowers. However, he is also including hemp in the list. According to his research so far, hemp appears to be a “heavy metal hyper accumulator” – and beats all the other plants he has so far studied. This is not a new finding; however, it is further confirmation of the same. In the 1990s, the Ukrainian government also documented the plant’s ability to absorb heavy metals like nickel, zinc and chromium which were present thanks to the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Campbell has planted 1,000 cannabis plants in soil collected from the area. The plants have all grown normally.
The land he is targeting is near Johannesburg, in Gauteng Province, an area blighted by more than a century of irresponsible and unsustainable gold extraction. The area is known for one of the world’s largest gold deposits. There are also about 380 abandoned mining areas in this zone, containing elevated levels of toxic and radioactive materials – which includes arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, copper, zinc, and uranium.
The pollution in the area is a result of mine drainage which includes heavy metals known to be hazardous to both humans and wildlife.
The cultivated crops could not be used for consumption however they could be used for other purposes – such as hempcrete.
The New Green Gold
The focus on hemp to clean up the damage done to the land is just one of the efforts now well underway in South Africa to focus on the cultivation of the plant as a form of economic development.
While gold mines have long been a source of wealth for the country, the practice of extracting gold is highly destructive to the environment – rendering it unsuitable for both man and beast.
By cleaning up such areas, the land would be reopened for resettlement – and redevelopment.
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