Academic journal article Science and Children

Gum Leaves Are Rich in Tiny Gold Nuggets

Academic journal article Science and Children

Gum Leaves Are Rich in Tiny Gold Nuggets

Article excerpt

Scientists have discovered that eucalyptus trees in the Kalgoorlie region of Western Australia are drawing up gold particles from the earth via their root systems and depositing it in their leaves and branches.

"The eucalyptus acts as a hydraulic pump--its roots extend tens of meters 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," said geochemist Mel Lintern, a member of the research team.

The discovery is unlikely to start an old-time gold rush--the "nuggets" are about one-fifth the diameter of a human hair. However, it could provide a golden opportunity for mineral exploration, as the leaves or soil underneath the trees could indicate gold ore deposits buried up to tens of meters underground and under sediments that are up to 60 million years old.

"The leaves could be used in combination with other tools as a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly exploration technique," Lintern said. "By sampling and analyzing vegetation for traces of minerals, we may get an idea of what's happening below the surface without the need to drill. …

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