While the land has the right combination of nutrients to support earth-based crops (and the accompanying pollinators), the natural environment of planet is primarily based on metals. There are significant mineral resources available in vast networks that have left mining organizations dizzy with the possibilities. Most of the native plant life seems to have a metallic cast. Botanists and engineers differ as to whether it can be called a true metal, but the leaves are certainly sharper than leaves on Earth, for example, and the bark of the native trees can be peeled off and welded to form a temporary patch over punctured or broken metal.
The primary animal lifeforms of the planet are subterranean creatures that consume minerals and excrete both never-before-seen alloys and life-sustaining gases. The creatures have a symbiotic relationship with a spore-like creature which allows them to locate these minerals across great distances. The spores have adapted to the arrival of humans, jumping the species barrier and causing their hosts to alter their behavior to fulfill the spores' needs. This manifests as gradual shifts of instinct and desire, leading to the colony having growth patterns along the mineral resources underground, rather than traditional human patterns like access to water or a easily defended position. New arrivals to the colony find this particularly disconcerting.