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February 10, 2021

CSIRO research discovers gold in eucalyptus trees

Gold mining has taken a new turn, according to  CSIRO research, there’s gold in them thar eucalyptus trees! Scientists from CSIRO recently made the discovery and have published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

The CSIRO research discovery however is unlikely to start a genuine gold rush as the “gold nuggets” are about one-fifth the diameter of a human hair. However, it could provide a golden (boom boom) opportunity for further exploration, as the leaves or soil underneath the trees could indicate gold ore deposits buried up to tens of metres underground and under sediments that are up to 60 million years old.

csiro gold gum leaf
Above: Eucalyptus leaf showing traces of gold.

The way we live in the world today depends much on finding minerals . Explorers need to find new mineral deposits, as new discoveries are down almost half in the last 10 years. Innovative, inexpensive and less damaging exploration techniques are now required to find the more difficult deposits hidden deep underground.

According to CSIRO geochemist Dr Mel Lintern, “The eucalypt acts as a hydraulic pump – its roots extend tens of metres into the ground and draw up water containing the gold. As the gold is likely to be toxic to the plant, it’s moved to the leaves and branches where it can be released or shed to the ground.”

Dr Mel Lintern, further added, “The leaves could be used in combination with other tools as a more cost effective and environmentally friendly exploration technique. By sampling and analysing vegetation for traces of minerals, we may get an idea of what’s happening below the surface without the need to drill. It’s a more targeted way of searching for minerals that reduces costs and impact on the environment.

“Eucalyptus trees are so common that this technique could be widely applied across Australia. It could also be used to find other metals such as zinc and copper.”

csiro gold gum tree australia
Above: Gum leaf samples showing traces of manganese.

The CSIRO research team behind the project used a Maia detector for x-ray elemental imaging at the Australian Synchrotron and were able to locate and see the gold in the leaves. The Synchrotron produced images depicting the gold, which would otherwise have been untraceable.

The principal scientist at the Australian Synchrotron Dr David Paterson explains, “Our advanced x-ray imaging enabled the researchers to examine the leaves and produce clear images of the traces of gold and other metals, nestled within their structure.”

“Before enthusiasts rush to prospect this gold from the trees or even the leaf litter, you need to know that these are tiny nuggets, which are about one-fifth the diameter of a human hair and generally invisible by other techniques and equipment.”

By using natural materials such as calcrete and laterite in soils for mineral exploration has led CSIRO research to many successful ore deposit discoveries in regional Australia and the outcomes of the research provide a direct boost to the national economy, as well as proving a gentler means of exploration.

Images supplied by CSIRO.

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