Archive for January, 2015

Fish sperm a ‘key ingredient’ to recycling rare earth elements

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Fish sperm a ‘key ingredient’ to recycling rare earth elements

Salmon sperm is considered industrial waste from fishery industries, so it would be a cheap and green alternative to current rare earth extraction methods. (Image by Sekar B. | Shutterstock.com)

Japanese scientists have developed a process that uses salmon sperm, also known as milt, to mine and reprocess rare earth elements (REEs) from ore and materials such as magnets and electronic waste.

Currently the extraction REEs is costly and potentially environmentally damaging. But the new method proposed by the University of Tokyo team, published in the journal PLOS One, could provide a clean and cost effective alternative.

Yoshio Takahashi and his colleagues were studying the absorption of REEs by bacteria cells when they found that the phosphate site plays an important role in the binding of metal ions, which let them to consider the possibility of DNA (which also has a phosphate site) being used to extract REEs in water.

To test their theory, the researchers used powdered milt and a solution containing the primary metals used in neodymium magnets—neodymium, dysprosium, and trivalent iron. When mixed together, the ions in the metal were attracted to the phosphate in the salmon semen.

This isn’t the first time fish sperm – or rather the DNA contained within — has been used in unusual ways.
This isn’t the first time fish sperm – or rather the DNA contained within — has been used in unusual ways. Among the strangest are fireproof coatings and templates for mass-producing silver nanoparticles.

Takahashi acknowledges that, while there isn’t much money in recovering REE from scrap magnets, the salmon-milt process might be better suited for extracting and recycling other elements on a large scale.

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Henry Sapiecha

$134BILLION WIPED OFF VALUE IN TOP 10 COPPER MINES

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Top 10 copper mines plunge $134 billion in value

It’s been a brutal two days on the copper market with prices falling nearly 10% since Monday.

Containing the losses to single digits was only thanks to a late recovery in New York on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day the price dropped 8% on the London Metal Exchange while losses in Shanghai could’ve been worse if the daily down limits on the Chinese exchange hadn’t been reached.

Many market observers (including your writer) believe prices won’t stay down at these levels which are the lowest since July 2009 – the height of the financial crisis.

Containing the losses to single digits was only thanks to a late recovery in New York on Wednesday

Between them the planet’s top ten producing mines have proven and probable reserves of 42.3 billion tonnes.

Contained metal at these 10 sites amount to 182.2 million tonnes.

Monday’s close at $6,130 a tonne on the LME to Wednesday’s end of day price of $5,548 a tonne (up from a stomach-churning $5,353 earlier) turns into a combined loss (or writedown if you will) of value at the mines of $133.8 billion dollars.

Of course these numbers represent money still buried in the ground, but it’s nevertheless a stark and sobering exercise to calculate just how much damage the red metal rout has done.

And how happenings on faraway futures markets can wreak havoc on (and under) the ground.

Top 10 copper mines plunge $134 billion in value

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Henry Sapiecha

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