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Mining ant colonies

Harnessing nature's designs.
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Ant communication/trading - can it be done? - Could ants mine minerals for us in return for something they want? Perhaps place some sort of cup sized device near their nest and teach them to place the material you desire in another cup to get sugar out. Could other animals be used too? Gophers, ground squirrels ... Harvesting collecting.
jpskiier, Mar 06 2013

http://meeja.com.au...ites-that-poo-gold/ Termites and ants depositing gold in their colony structures. [jpskiier, May 17 2013]

Aluminum mining for ants? http://philosophyof...num-ant-colony.html
Ant murder in the service of science/art--little lives could be saved by consulting jpskiier first! [Sgt Teacup, May 17 2013]

Takeaway http://www.nature.c...6/full/458376a.html
pay them with tasty Chinese food [Loris, May 17 2013]

well they could prospect http://www.mineweb....id=165858&sn=Detail
[4whom, May 17 2013]

[link]






       Most of the desirable material we mine comes in the form of billions of tons of solid rock, so no, ants and gophers could not be employed for industrial mining purposes.   

       You know all that interesting stuff you're thinking about right now? Go read about it. You may find answers to questions you didn't intend to ask if you keep asking here.
Alterother, Mar 06 2013
  

       If we wanted to talk to an ants' nest, we'd have to start by manipulating scent trails. If we could do that, then we'd not so much be communicating them as driving them like computer peripherals. Notwithstanding what you may have read in Hofstadter ... {pause for a respectful nod towards Hofstadter} ... It would be as if the first communication you had with another human being were by sticking electrodes into their brain. It might get the relationship off on the wrong foot. I've never seen it work out well.   

       The legal enforcement of the contract would be very difficult. Imagine ant lawyers. Now imagine ant lawyers taking the humans' case pro bono publico, just to patronise us.   

       And if there's no contract, then its not really trade, is it, so much as a kind of farming - like bee-keeping?   

       Now imagine the termites buying Manhattan from the humans for a handful of beads.
pertinax, Mar 07 2013
  

       //Dr Stewart said much of the Australian landscape was covered by a layer of eroded material that hides what lies beneath.   

       ... from the meeja link. Errm how many countries don't have a top layer of eroded stuff?
not_morrison_rm, May 17 2013
  

       Urk.   

       [marked-for-deletion] not an idea.
FlyingToaster, May 17 2013
  

       Why is this "not an idea"? The idea is to reward ants with sugar in exchange for minerals. That, it seems to me, is an idea.   

       Question 1 is whether ants can distinguish the necessary minerals - I would guess yes, in some cases.   

       Question 2 is whether they will "learn" to exchange mineral grains for food. I would say definitely "yes" - ants can be made to do all kinds of weird stuff in exchange for a food reward. You would however need some sort of mineral identifier on the food station, to tell when the correct mineral had been delivered.   

       Question 3 is whether it is worthwhile. No, for cheap bulk minerals. Potentially yes, for things like placer gold in (dry) sand, or maybe even alluvial diamonds.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 17 2013
  

       see link...
4whom, May 17 2013
  

       Sadly, we might have to pay/farm the ants to collect pollen.
wjt, May 20 2013
  
      
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