Does Gold Grow on Trees?

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An interesting research paper released last month examines how gold deposits changes in regolith over time. Regolith is the surface layer of the earth’s mantle. The public implications of this research are minimal, however. Does gold grow on trees? Yes, but only in quantities insufficient to harvest. Furthermore, the second place yo can find it is in termite mounds. Again, not a place you would likely want to go. New research in Western Australia reveals where remaining gold, and potentially silver, deposits might be hiding.

Looking for Gold

Humans have been creating with gold for thousands of years. In fact, the first gold artifacts are known from the 4000-3000 BC. These were found in “the Levant” by a team from Tel Aviv University. Over Millenia, mankind has exhausted various easy-to-find supplies and began looking deeper under the earth for the shiny metal.

This new information is useful in that traditional methods of locating gold deposits such as looking at nearby streams, or studying topographic maps and flying over land have become less effective. Looking at samples of the terrain itself, we can learn something much more accurate. What Ravi Anand et al. found in Australia is twofold. First, “spectacular secondary Au as clumps and larger clusters, not previously reported in ferricrete [a strong, erosion-resistant rocky layer], occurs in organic C-rich [Carbon-rich] zones of the cortices and cavities of pisoliths,” and that this is “implying a role for organic matter in their formation.” The organic matter referred to is “vegetation (Acacia aneura) and termite mounds”.

They key assumption here is that these trace amounts of gold come from underlying deposits. During far-past more humid climates, the gold came to where it is today, and now forms part of the ecosystem. Looking at where the gold is most concentrated, may therefore, give prospectors of all sorts a strong indicator of real gold deposits.

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