Money doesn’t grow on trees is an old proverb which has turned out to be wrong as CSIRO scientists made a recent discovery which has been published in the journal Nature Communications. According to CSIRO scientists; Western Australia’s Kalgoorlie region trees are acting differently. To be a bit more precise; Eucalyptus trees are actually sucking up particles of gold by making use of their root system and are depositing it on their leaves and branches.
Dr. Mel Lintern, CSIRO geochemist, said; ‘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. The leaves could be used in combination with other tools as a more cost effective and environmentally friendly exploration technique’
Scientists have also speculated that this will not result in another gold rush since these deposits are around 1/5th the dia of a human hair but this sure will come as a breakthrough for mining industry since these leaves and a combination of other tools will provide much more cost effective and environment friendly techniques for exploration. Also these trees could work as indicators if there is any gold underneath the ground.
The team also said that; ‘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.’
How this discovery was made possible if the deposits are one-fifth the diameter of a human hair? Well, say hello to CSIRO’s Maia detector used for x-ray elemental imaging being used at Australian Synchrotron. Dr. David Paterson, Principal scientist at the Australian Synchrotron, said; ‘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.’
This is not the only discovery made by the CSIRO. Their research making use of natural materials (Calcrete, Laterite) for mineral exploration has met success a lot of times and as a result many ore deposits have been discovered in Australia. These discoveries have helped in providing a boost to the economy as well.