Tokai pupil’s science idea is as good as gold

2015-05-12 06:00
Brendan Weaver, a Herzlia pupil, is attending a science fair in the United States to show off his alternative, more environmentally friendly gold mining process.

Brendan Weaver, a Herzlia pupil, is attending a science fair in the United States to show off his alternative, more environmentally friendly gold mining process.

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Saving the environment, one gold mine at a time.

This is the ambitious plan of a 16-year-old Herzlia High School pupil who has developed an alternative gold mining extraction process.

Grade 11 pupil Brendan Weaver, from Tokai, was inspired to create a different process after reading an article which detailed a horrific cyanide spill in Ghana.

“The inhabitants of the village were harmed and their water supply was ruined. Considering myself a some-what environmental activist, I made the decision that the use of cyanide in gold mining needs to be stopped,” he says.

“Once on paper, my alternative to cyanide seemed pleasingly enough to lead to larger-scale investigations and that is essentially how the idea was sparked.”

Brendan’s process uses sodium thiosulphate to extract gold, which is less harmful to the environment than the current process of using cyanide.

It also uses less energy, resulting in higher yields of gold extraction.

“In an ideal world, the use of my method would lead to mass reform in the mining industry. Ecosystems and water supplies would be saved in surrounding villages and mining companies would be yielding more gold in a fraction of the time,” he says.

“However, it is important to note that, in order for this to become a reality, mining conglomerates are going to have to make the initial step of putting the environment above their income.”

Brendan is now off to Houston, USA where his idea will compete in the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering, and Environment Project, a science fair competition open to high school students.

Although Brendan expects his idea to do well at the competition, it is only the start for the young scientist.

Once his schooling is complete, he aims to take on the world through a degree in chemical engineering, which combines his three main interests of maths, the environment and chemistry, he says.

“Due to the science behind the project I have increased my interest and passion for science, but there was more to it. I now realise that simply having a good idea is not enough to get anywhere,” Brendan says.

“There needs to be an incentive in almost every idea you propose, otherwise it is deemed futile and irrelevant. Through hard work and determination I have reached this goal of representing South Africa and this has shown me the true potency of perseverance.”

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