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There’s GOLD in Them There Hills, Termite Hills That Is…

Posted: December 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Entomology, Favorite New Thought, Geology, Outside the Box | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on There’s GOLD in Them There Hills, Termite Hills That Is…

Cankler - Theres GOLD in Them There Hills, Termite Hills That Is - Litchfield NT Magnetic Termite MoundsThose superneat boffins at Australia’s science-factory – The CSIRO –  have found that termite mounds could indicate where gold or other mineral deposits lie beneath the surface.

Researchers believe that even small termite mounds could be reliable markers, and that termites themselves may be a cost-effective and environmentally friendly means of finding new mineral deposits.

Termite mounds are abundant across Australia’s north, and the largest ones can stand up to five metres tall. The research was published in science journals PLoS ONE and Geochemistry: Exploration, Environment, Analysis, found that at a test site in the West Australian goldfields termite mounds contained high concentrations of gold. This gold indicates there is a larger deposit underneath ::::

Cankler - Theres GOLD in Them There Hills, Termite Hills That Is...

CSIRO entomologist Dr Aaron Stewart says there is a very good reason they build the mounds.

“Termites need protection from the elements. They’re quite perceptible to desiccation, they’ll dry out very easily, so what they need to do is create a home which retains the humidity,” Dr Stewart said. “They also need protection against their enemies because there’s lots of things that make a tasty meal of a termite.”

Dr Stewart says in order to build their homes, termites bring up dirt from below the surface.

“When it builds its mound, it’s collecting material from different places, collecting fine, silty clays from the surface and other building materials. It’s also excavating soil from underneath in which to house its nest. So it’s really about how they go down and collect materials and put them in their nest, and to our advantage, those materials are what we’re looking for.”

Termites can dig as far down as 30 metres, but when they are building, most of the dirt will come from just a few metres down. At that level there is often a fingerprint or residue that points to more substantial mineral deposits further below. Once that soil ends up in the termite mound, geologists and entomologists can have a closer look.

Dr Stewart says minerals would not be apparent to the naked eye.

"What we have to do is take the soil away and have it analysed by a laboratory... and find the gold that way," Dr Stewart said. "We're talking about very low levels of gold."

Dr Stewart says looking at termite mounds is not a new idea, but until now any attempt to detect mineral wealth has focused on the largest mounds, usually found in the Northern Territory.

He says a smaller mound will do just as well.

"The insects that I'm looking at occupy a vast area of central Australia, so we're talking about down into quite southern latitudes, so we're talking about animals right across Australia, not just the big termite mounds that are in the north."

Alternative Mineral exploration in Australia can be expensive because resources tend to be well below the surface and drilling is required to find out what is there.

Dr Stewart says termites could provide an alternative.

"There is quite a history of people looking at termite mounds to find gold," Dr Stewart said. "In fact in Africa, some mounds have enough gold in them that people are panning them to get the gold out. So the idea has sort of been around, it's really about how we applied it to the Australian landscape."

Dr Stewart says his technique could also possibly find other valuable resources.

"So far I've really had the most success looking at gold, but certainly we're researching into other resources as well, for example VMS, which is volcanic massive sulphide deposits, which will have zinc and other resources in them. But that research is really in development."

Mineral resources make up A$86.7 billion of Australia’s exports and new discoveries in many commodities are required to sustain production. After 150 years of mining, gold and other mineral deposits near the surface have been discovered and miners need new tools to explore deeper underground.

Insects could provide a new, cost effective and environmentally friendly way of exploring for new mineral deposits, avoiding the traditional method of expensive and often inaccurate drilling.

source: csiro

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