-- You might call it extreme mining. While trolling the deep seabed north of Papua New Guinea, scientists aboard the Australian research vessel Franklin recently recovered a giant, intact undersea chimney. These rare "black smokers" form when superheated mineral compounds bubble up from fissures in the earth's crust. But the scientists were more interested in the exotic bacteria that live around the smokers. Living off of the flow of minerals, these "extremophile" microbes may one day be harnessed to process trace elements in mines or to clean up toxic waste.

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