CSIRO geoscientists in Perth have discovered trace gold particles in eucalyptus trees in WA’s Yilgarn Craton, signalling major progress for environmentally friendly means of finding new gold.
With gold discoveries decreasing by 45 per cent during the past decade, the finding could be a key factor to uncovering new, quality gold supplies.
The researchers hypothesised that the trees absorbed gold through their root systems, while scouring for ground water in times of drought.
After transversing the trunk, the gold particles are concentrated into the trees’ leaves, where their presence can be detected using the CSIRO’s patented Maia detector for x-ray elemental imaging.
“Gold is probably toxic to plants and is moved to extremities, such as leaves, or to preferential zones within cells in order to reduce deleterious biochemical reactions,” the CSIRO researchers stated in their Nature Communications journal article.
The research team said it was the first time that gold had been found naturally incorporated into a living organism. Former Newmont Gold geologist Nigel Radford told ABC News that the discovery’s implications for exploration were highly significant.
“A lot of this stuff has been speculated about for some time, but the identification of the gold particles in the leaf materials is completely convincing and very, very important for the future of mineral exploration,” Mr Radford said.
Mr Radford said he believed the findings held the potential to make gold exploration both quicker and more cost effective.
“Ideally, any mineral exploration team would like to collect their samples on-surface,” he said.
“If you can sample on-surface, it saves all the cost and all the time involved in drilling holes.”