You won’t believe it when you read this – scientists have found gold growing on gum trees near Wudinna on the Eyre Peninsula in Australia.
A team of CSIRO scientists discovered eucalyptus trees near the country town draw up tiny gold “nuggets” from the earth via their root system and then deposit the valuable metal on their leaves, bark and branches.
While scientists have found gold on trees before, it was never actually known how it got there.
CSIRO geochemist Dr. Mel Lintern, lead author of the multi-million dollar project, said the discovery could save mining and gold exploration companies “a lot of money”.
“If they’re able to sample the trees (for gold) in place of drilling, then they’re going to save some money,” he said.
“The other aspect about that of course is sampling the vegetation is more environmentally benign that digging big holes or drilling.”
Advanced x-ray imaging enabled the scientists to examine the leaves and find clear images of the traces of gold, which are as small as one-fifth the diameter of a human hair.
They conducted the research in two spots across Australia including Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and a place called Barns about 15 miles from Wudinna in South Australia.
People who live in the Wudinna area will know of Barns, a spot which holds gold but not enough to mine.
Lintern and his team decided to test the spot after closely following and visiting the area for the past eight years.
“There is very, very tiny amounts of gold (on the trees),” he said.
“If you had 500 gums growing over a gold deposit (like at Barns) and you managed to get all the gold on the trees, the trunk, the leaves and the roots, you might get enough gold to make one wedding ring.”
But before hopeful gold diggers try their luck in the area, Lintern said there were a few setbacks.
The land is privately owned by Adelaide Resources, a private company which focuses on mineral exploration for gold and copper deposits, which meant the scientists needed to get special permission to use the area.
“To analyse the gold what you’d be doing is sampling the leaves by sending the leaves off to a lab, digest the leaves with acid and analyse the acid like you would a soil sample,” Dr Lintern said.
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, was funded by various mining and exploration companies including Newmont Mining Corporation and Barrick Gold Corporation.
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