Phytoremediation and phytomining: a practical activity


Phytoremediation is the use of green plants to decontaminate soils in situ. Soils can become contaminated from activities such as mining & manufacturing. In turn, the copper can be extracted from the plants, known as phytomining.

This practical activity investigates the use of hyperaccumulating plants to clean up copper contaminated soils. This demonstration uses Indian Mustard (Brassica juncea) as the hyperaccumulator, as this can be grown in a short timeframe.

The mustard is grown hydroponically, with elevated levels of copper. The copper levels are measured over the test period and the absorption by the mustard seeds calculated.

This new protocol was written by science technician Helen Bailey, based on the techniques she has developed for her school, and funded by a SAPS Associates Award. If you have any feedback or further suggestions on the protocol, please let us know at

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