Geologist Tshiamo Legoale rocks in science

Geologist  Tshiamo Legoale  is welcomed back home by friends and family at  OR Tambo International Airport.  Photo: Alaister Russell
Geologist  Tshiamo Legoale  is welcomed back home by friends and family at OR Tambo International Airport. Photo: Alaister Russell

FOR 27-year-old South African geologist Tshiamo Legoale, triumph at an international science competition is beyond a dream come true.

On Friday, Legoale, one of three entrants from Africa, walked away with the FameLab award at a ceremony which was held in Cheltenham, England.

"I feel ecstatic. I am extremely happy about winning and I'm also humbled," she told The Times, Sowetan's sister publication.

Her presentation on how wheat enzymes can be used to extract gold from tailings (mine dumps) saw her win with the prestigious award.

The Mintek employee described wheat as "the introvert of the periodic table", and said that it did not easily bond with other metals or substances.

Legoale said wheat had a trick up its sleeve.

"It's able to release a composition of enzymes which changes the form of gold into a soluble liquid, thus releasing the gold.

"I thought if vegetation can be used in extracting harmful metals, why not do that for metals we actually want.

"Through research I found out that wheat can be used to absorb gold and that's where it all began."

She said her proposal would be in line with the global sustainability goals on gold extraction, namely environmental awareness, social responsibility and economic growth.

"With the use of innovative technology this idea will probably be used in Virginia, Free State, to rehabilitate mine dumps and create jobs."

She said during her presentation she labelled herself a "gold digger".

"In fact, I am a gold farmer.

"Science, when it is well done ... [and] well communicated, it can change the world."

According to the competition's panelists who listened to entrants from Australia, Hong Kong, India, Malta, Mauritius, Portugal, Uganda and the UK, Legoale's content, clarity and charisma are what won them over in awarding her the first place.

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