Nedal Said

Now for a story about an unusual partnership – two scientists trying to find a way to recover valuable metals from abandoned mines. It’s happening in Leipzig. NPR’s Joe Palca went to Germany to learn more.
JOE PALCA, BYLINE: In the lower level of a building on the campus of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, there’s a modern, well-equipped laboratory.
MATTHIAS SCHMIDT: We’ve got a number of different microscopes. Then we’ve got a laser microdissection system here.
PALCA: Matthias Schmidt is giving me a tour of the lab. Microscopes and laser microdissection systems are useful if you happen to be studying single cells or bacteria. So what are they doing in a lab that’s trying to recover valuable metals from abandoned mines? Well, here’s the deal. Schmidt says even when all the gold and silver in a mine has been removed, there are what’s called rare-earth metals left behind …