A Walk Through Time

Microbial Mining And Manufacturing

2900 Million Years Ago

Bacteria modify the global mineral cycle in two important ways: they induce nearby minerals to precipitate (settle out of solution), and they internally manufacture minerals. Bacteria swimming in a river help precipitate the great gold deposits of South Africa. Today, these wee wonders head for the mines of Russia. Miners pump microbes and water into thin or hard-to-reach veins.

Initial research indicates that microbes biologically induce over 27 kinds of minerals. Which minerals these versatile fellows form depends upon their environment and their own genetic capabilities.

Top and Bottom: Metal makers do their thing. These bacteria have precipitated manganese dioxide minerals out of solution. (Photographs by Lynn Margulis)

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