Reducing our environmental impact has been at the forefront of mineral processing research for as long as our industry has been around. Prospecting for valuable metals, like gold, often requires experimental drilling and excavating, which doesn’t always pay off with optimal gold recovery. So researchers have been looking for clues on our planet’s surface to find bountiful mineral deposits below. Recently, researchers discovered gold-coated mushrooms growing in Australia which may help us locate profitable gold deposits with higher accuracy and less environmental damage.
Gold-Coated Mushrooms In Western Australia
Geologists from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, have made some incredible discoveries when it comes to finding gold in nature. Trees in the Kalgoorlie region of Western Australia can draw up gold from the Earth and deposit it in their leaves, and termites have been found harbouring gold in their mouths. Their most recent discovery was a mushroom coated in gold particles.
This soil-living fungus, called Fusarium oxysporum, dissolves and precipitates particles of gold from its surroundings and then attaches the gold to its strands. The process is highly unusual as gold is a chemically inactive substance; the fact that gold responds to the fungus in this way is quite surprising.
Gold Gives The Mushroom A Biological Advantage
For reasons not yet fully understood, the gold-coated mushrooms have a biological advantage over other fungi. They grow larger, spread faster, and play host to a more diverse range of other fungi when compared to their non-gold counterparts. The mushrooms play a powerful role in a biodiverse soil community.
Research is continuing as to whether the mushrooms are linked to gold deposits below the Earth’s surface. If a connection is found, it would have a significant impact on gold recovery in two ways. First, it would lessen the environmental impact of experimental drilling. Second, increased gold deposit accuracy would decrease prospecting costs.
Australia was the second largest gold producer last year, pumping out 310 tonnes of the yellow metal. However, analysts believe that their current gold mining operations are drying up, creating a need to locate new gold deposits. The scientists at CSIRO are hoping to use this discovery to locate large gold deposits and continue being a global player in gold production.
Researching A Resource-Conscious Gold Recovery Process
In addition to this discovery, Sepro is researching ways to reduce water consumption in the gold recovery process. Currently, large amounts of fluidized water are required in gravity centrifuges, but we believe that effective gold recovery doesn’t need this valuable resource. That’s why our research team is developing a new process which uses the Falcon SB Gravity Concentrator without fluidizing water for fine gold recovery. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date with all the latest mineral processing research.