Could This Newly Discovered Gold-Loving Fungus Reveal Massive New Gold Deposits In Australia?
Monday May 27, 2019 22:31
Could This Newly Discovered Gold-Loving Fungus Reveal New Massive Gold Deposits In Australia?
(Kitco News) - Australian scientists discovered a new type of fungus that decorates itself with gold nanoparticles it absorbs from deposits below the surface.
The discovery, published in the Nature Communications journal last week, could be a game changer for miners trying to pinpoint new massive gold deposits hiding underground, according to author and geomicrobiologist of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Tsing Bohu.
“We show fungi, a major driver of mineral bioweathering, can initiate gold oxidation under Earth surface conditions, which is of significance for dissolved gold species formation and distribution,” the report stated.
The strain of the Fusarium oxysporum fungus, which looks like a fluffy pink organism that surrounds itself with gold nanoparticles, was found in Boddington, Western Australia, located about 80 miles south-east of Perth.
“Fungi can oxidise tiny particles of gold and precipitate it on their strands – this cycling process may contribute to how gold and other elements are distributed around the Earth's surface,” Bohu said.
The researchers made the discovery when experimenting with microbes found in the gold-rich soil of Western Australia.
What makes this fungus unique is its ability to dissolve gold by producing a chemical known as superoxide. After dissolving the metal, the fungus can then turn the absorbed metal back into solid form, the report highlighted.
“We observed the precipitation of gold on the surface of the fungus,” Bohu stated. “Gold is so chemically inactive that this interaction is both unusual and surprising – it had to be seen to be believed.”
The research team will continue to look into how the fungus is able to interact with gold and whether or not its presence can be indicative of bigger gold deposits below the surface.
“We want to understand if the fungus we studied ... can be used in combination with these exploration tools to help industry to target prospective areas,” CSIRO chief research scientist Ravi Anand said.
Gold prospectors, however, should not get ahead of themselves by traveling to Western Australia in search of new gold deposits based on the location of the fungus, as it can only be spotted under a microscope.
Either way, the news could be big for Australia — the world’s second-largest gold producer, especially because the nation’s gold output is projected to decline in the next five years, according to the S&P Global Market Intelligence report published in April.
It is estimated that the mining nation will fall into fourth place by 2024, surpassed by Canada and Russia.
“Australia's production is expected to fall the most. The current second-largest gold producing nation behind China is expected to fall to fourth place globally in 2024,” S&P Global Market Intelligence analyst Christopher Galbraith said.
By Anna Golubova
For Kitco News https://www.kitco.com/news/2019-05-27/Could-This-Newly-Discovered-Gold-Loving-Fungus-Reveal-Massive-New-Gold-Deposits-In-Australia.html