While people would think that gold can only be found in mining sites, Australian researchers have traced minuscule amounts of gold hidden in the leaves of Eucalyptus trees.
Geochemists from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) said this discovery could lead to greater chances of mineral discovery.
The trees also serve as indicators that gold deposits are buried many feet below – typically no more than 100 feet (30 m) deep.
“We weren’t expecting this at all. To actually see the gold particles in the leaves was quite a eureka moment for us,” said Melvyn Lintern, a geochemist at CSIRO.
Discovering gold among leaves of tress has also happened in the past. Geochemist Mel Lintern said the trees might have sucked up the gold particles blown by the wind.
“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,” he explained.
The researchers made use of synchrotron, a machine that uses X-rays in finding traces of gold in leaves, twigs and bark of trees. They also estimated that it would take 500 eucalyptus trees to make a single wedding band out of gold.
The said discovery also paved the way for more efficient and environmentally friendly methods of exploring gold.
“This link between… vegetation growth and buried gold deposits could prove instrumental in developing new technologies for mineral exploration,” the researchers said.
“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,” said geochemist Nigel Radford who has been into gold exploration for decades already.
As reported by the World Gold Council, there are more than 174,000 tonnes extracted from Earth since then. Based on the 2011 report of the US Geological Survey, there are only 51,000 tonnes of gold left in reserve in the world. Gold price has also skyrocketed over the past 13 years.
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