Small-scale fault systems in the Earth’s crust have a strong correlation with the location of gold, a recent study of the St Ives Goldfields in Western Australia has found.
Our research, published in science journal Ore Geology Reviews, found that all major gold deposits are controlled by faults, but small fault systems are more likely to lead to gold than larger ones.
Researcher Dr Carsten Laukamp says the relationship between fault systems and gold traces is key to understanding the genesis of gold and could be used to help locate any commodity.
“Determining the spatial relationship between geological features such as fault lines, and gold traces, is not only important to understand how deposits form, it can also guide mineral exploration because we can use this information to develop predictive mineral maps,” he says.
Dr Laukamp and his team developed a predictive mineral map of the St Ives Goldfields that shows new prospective areas where there is a high likelihood that gold could be located.
“We used information such as rock type, colour, shape and size and geological boundaries – all information we can gather from drilling samples – to develop the map,” Dr Laukamp says.
“This research is one step in the development of predictive mineral maps that integrate various types of geological data.
“Next, we’ll incorporate data collected from aircrafts and satellites, such as geophysical and spectroscopic data, which will improve the information value and accuracy of the predictive mineral map.”
Learn more about our research in mineral exploration.
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Ant and termite nests could lead to hidden treasure according to research conducted by CSIRO.
Research 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.
“We’re using insects to help find new gold and other mineral deposits. These resources are becoming increasingly hard to find because much of the Australian landscape is covered by a layer of eroded material that masks what’s going on deeper underground,” Dr Aaron Stewart, CSIRO entomologist said.
Termites and ants burrow into this layer of material where a fingerprint of the underlying gold deposit is found, and bring traces of this fingerprint to the surface.
“The insects bring up small particles that contain gold from the deposit’s fingerprint, or halo, and effectively stockpile it in their mounds,” Dr Stewart said.
“Our recent research has shown that small ant and termite mounds that may not look like much on the surface, are just as valuable in finding gold as the large African mounds are that stand several metres tall.”
Mineral resources make up $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.
Dr Stewart’s work has also found that insects carry metals in their bodies.
“We’ve found that metals accumulate in excretory systems of termites,” he said.
“Although the insects may not concentrate metals in their bodies, they actively rid their bodies of excess metals. This process shows up as little stones, much like kidney stones in people. This finding is important because these excretions are a driving force in redistribution of metals near the surface.”
Dr Stewart was selected as a finalist in this year’s Fresh Science Awards.
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